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

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

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

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

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 every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.

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

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day activities. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.

This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!

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 easy to purchase.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction 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 grab 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 impacted by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people 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 keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

Unfortunately, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, 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 worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great 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.
  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You really should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.

It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are often not the best choice

So are there negative aspects to OTC 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. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.

Are there any risks that come with OTC 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 distinct 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 necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. 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 set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out 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.

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