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 supermarket? As a kid, they were awesome because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

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. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.

This can make you feel distant from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you get older.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

It’s not hard to recognize why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule 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 end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

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

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the best option

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter 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 might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • 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 not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • 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 customized for those situations.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.

Are there any dangers 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

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment once you understand 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.

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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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