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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 you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

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.

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your day-to-day experiences. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you get older.

So it’s not simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

Sadly, this means that consumers 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?

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

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some cases. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:

  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.

It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some types 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 certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution

So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You have more severe hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • 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 harm their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)

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

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be able to get better treatment when you understand more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right 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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