You’re Taking Chances if You go With Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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

Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you may want more specific ice cream in other situations.

This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you get older.

So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

It isn’t difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been hard 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 people 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 understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.

What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you purchase 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 option

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You have more profound hearing loss. 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 need to hear in complex or noisy environments. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • 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 alternative.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.

Are there any dangers 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.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice 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 when you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, 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.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.

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.