Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You start 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 appealing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other individuals who might want to talk to you.
This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t 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 instance), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It isn’t hard to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You keep a pair 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 buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a practical fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. 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 invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
What are the dangers 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 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. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.