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

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? 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 you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even simple conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other individuals who might want to talk to you.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you get older.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

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

You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new pair 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.

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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.