Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you get older, you start to get a bit more particular. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that every kind 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.

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

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who might want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about also!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to get.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. 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 do the trick in some scenarios

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

It’s never been hard to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.

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

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit

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

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • 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.

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

See a hearing specialist either way

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. 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 when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.

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.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you figure out what hearing aid type is right for you.

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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