You’re Taking Chances if You go With Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you begin to get a little more particular. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have significant impacts

Hearing loss can have a significant 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.

This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you age.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

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

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They essentially amplify all of 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 some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.

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

What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

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

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in some situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You’ve consulted 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 perform most optimally.)
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
  • You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.

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

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right choice

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

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals with 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.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, 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 advanced to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not sufficiently treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.

What are the risks of over-the-counter 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 distinct hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever option 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 know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

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 best for you.

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.