Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? 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. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have significant impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. 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 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 difficult to understand why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way 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.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can work
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 wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end 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. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid 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 not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option 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 a lot 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 worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (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 frequently 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 scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
Are there any risks 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.
See a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.