Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers begin to become more appealing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
It’s not difficult to recognize why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily 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 sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the consumer.
How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You’ve consulted 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 work best.)
- You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
It’s pretty common 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. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are often not the right choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
See a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. 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. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.