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 grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

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

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your day-to-day experiences. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even simple conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other people who may want to talk to you.

This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you age, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So it’s not simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially serious health issues.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

It isn’t hard to recognize why people would want to go 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 made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can work

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

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed 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 appropriate choice 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 functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly 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 specific cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good solution

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You have more severe hearing loss. 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.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate 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 necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.

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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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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