You’re Taking Chances if You Opt For Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more enticing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to carry on even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who might want to speak with you.

This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you get older, your mental faculties can deteriorate faster.

So it’s not only that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

It isn’t hard to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad solution for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best option lies with the consumer.

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (You absolutely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the right choice

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every circumstance. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal option for you if:

  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not effectively treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, make an appointment with us today.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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