Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you start to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious affects
Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to buy.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were never 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.
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the best choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires 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 find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.