Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But as you get older, you start to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be significantly affected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s harder to carry on even simple conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other people who might want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And as you age, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

It isn’t difficult to recognize why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.

In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can work

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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).

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (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 frequently not the ideal option

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the ideal choice for you if:

  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for 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?
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. 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.

What are the dangers of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, 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

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

That’s because knowing 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 situation.

In the same way, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the 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.