Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously 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 others are saying.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less enjoyable, for example), 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 lead to, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to buy.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the individual.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they suggest 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.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse 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:
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
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.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once 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 adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right for you.