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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 as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some situations, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. Social isolation that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

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 steer clear of the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.

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.

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 obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

By their 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 grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.

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

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right choice lies with the consumer.

What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

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

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.

It’s pretty typical 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 purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal option

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

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:

  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.

What are the dangers 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

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

You will be capable of getting better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

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 the right choice for you, schedule 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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