Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find 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 preferences get more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. 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. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your day-to-day activities. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So it isn’t just that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially serious health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, 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. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re going home right after you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were never 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 right choice lies with the consumer.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.

It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids are not a practical fit

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:

  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe 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.

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get 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 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.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.