Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more appealing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some situations, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
Hearing loss can have significant affects
Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your everyday activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who might want to talk to you.
This can cause you to 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 get older.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed to take the place of 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 option lies with the consumer.
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models 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 purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every circumstance. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. 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.
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. 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.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
What are the dangers 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 specific hearing loss.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment when you understand 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 situation.
In the same way, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.