Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers start to become more enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some situations, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with you.
This can make you feel distant from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you get older.
So it isn’t simply that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go 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
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot 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 is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some cases. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. Some types are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right option
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not sufficiently manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
- When you’re in challenging 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 aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, making 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. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
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, schedule an appointment with us today.