Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.
Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It isn’t a happy way to live. 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 birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you get and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate choice lies with the individual.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific 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 purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are often not the right choice
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- You have more profound hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
Are there any risks that come with OTC 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.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. 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. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.