Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? As a kid, they were awesome because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you get older, you begin to get a little more specific. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, 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 go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Obviously, we’re also referring to 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.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.
This can cause you to feel removed from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to buy.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated 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. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the individual.
How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. 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 designs will be the best option. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every situation. OTC hearing will not be the ideal choice for you if:
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- 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 exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
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 distinct hearing loss.
See a hearing specialist either way
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
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 figure out what hearing aid type is right for you.