Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a bit more specific. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more enticing.
Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you may want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have significant impacts
Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your everyday experiences. Social isolation that often 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 distant from your friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
It isn’t difficult to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. 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 individual.
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 customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in some cases. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (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 frequently not the best option
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often 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 less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
In the same way, 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, schedule an appointment with us today.