Audiology Associates of North Florida - Tallahassee, FL

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

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

But as you grow up, you start to get a bit more particular. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who might want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you get older.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. 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. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around 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 people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Sadly, 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?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs and they won’t fit as well.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution

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

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everyone in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the ideal option for you if:

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You have more profound hearing loss. 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.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule 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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