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Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

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

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 each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain situations, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your mental faculties can deteriorate faster.

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

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

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

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set 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 started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. 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 hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Sadly, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription 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 circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some people just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • 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.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the right option

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t effectively manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, 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 customized for those situations.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.

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 specific hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get 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 situation.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

If you think 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.