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 find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

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

This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.

This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you get older.

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

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios

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

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many people, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed to replace their prescription counterparts.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.

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

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

So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:

  • You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.

It’s pretty 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 models will be the best choice. (So before you purchase 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 option

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everyone in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • Your hearing loss has progressed 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.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer 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.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out 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.