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

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers start to become more appealing.

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

Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have significant affects

Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

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 as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So it’s not only that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

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 stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re going home right after you get and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had 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 make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed to replace their prescription counterparts.

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

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

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain cases. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are often not the best choice

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

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

  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • 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 this.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)

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 throwing some money away 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. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

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

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

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.

    Dr. Laura Padham, Audiologist

    Ocean Gate, NJ

    143 W Barnegat Avenue
    Ocean Gate, NJ 08740

    Mobile Services in:Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Atlantic, Mercer, and Burlington Counties.

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