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 get at grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

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

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big 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 for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have significant impacts

Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other individuals who may want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. 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 get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t 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 difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

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

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some types are more effective 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 buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good solution

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC 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 best choice for you if:

  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, 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 progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t effectively manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and further damaging your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your distinct hearing loss.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment when you understand more about your hearing loss. We can help steer 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.

If you believe 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.
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