Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

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 supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. How good 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

Your daily life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you age.

So it isn’t only that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially severe health issues.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

It’s not difficult to understand why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.

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

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.

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.

What’s the essential 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 quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

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

  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (So before you invest in 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 good solution

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. 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 lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.

Are there any risks that come with OTC 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 specific hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be capable of getting better treatment once 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.

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 find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.

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.