Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a little more specific. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in some situations, but you may want more specific ice cream in other situations.
This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.
This can make you feel distant from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.
So it isn’t simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.
Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit 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 may not be a bad solution for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some people just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are often not the best choice
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
- You have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. 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 believe 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.