Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you start to get a bit more specific. You begin opting 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.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you age.
So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It’s not difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home right after you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations
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 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 get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
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 consumer.
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You’ve checked with 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.)
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be the right choice 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 good solution
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter 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. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
Are there any risks 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 suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.