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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you start to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You start going 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.

But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday experiences. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.

This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you age.

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

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to buy.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. 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 scenarios

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 wider distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never 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 right choice lies with the individual.

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

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in some circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some individuals simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids are not a practical fit

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

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every situation. Generally, 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 somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • 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 personalized for those situations.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?

What are the risks of over-the-counter 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 distinct hearing loss.

See a hearing specialist either way

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.

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

Make an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right for you.

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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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