Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a little more particular. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day experiences. Social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It’s not difficult to recognize why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
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 customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in certain cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend 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 pair to use for emergencies.
- 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.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very 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 the right choice 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 frequently not the best option
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal option for you if:
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound 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.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
Are there any risks that come with OTC 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.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right for you.