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 supermarket? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream tastes become 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. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other situations.

Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday activities. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster mental 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 enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

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

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. 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 right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

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

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many people, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution 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.

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

What’s the 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 will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • 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 work best.)

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to know 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, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC 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 who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings 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 less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.

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

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

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

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

If you think you have hearing loss and want to see 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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