Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? A whole 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. Those smaller containers start to become more appealing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring 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 some situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from 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 supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you age, your mental faculties can decline faster.
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.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not difficult to recognize why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. 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.
In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can work
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not 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 appropriate option lies with the individual.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also recognize that some people just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- You need to hear in challenging 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.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, 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.
You will be able to get better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
In the same way, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you figure out what hearing aid type is best for you.