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 begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have significant affects
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day experiences. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it’s not simply 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.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It’s not difficult to recognize why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify 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
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed 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 appropriate option 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 won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some cases. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (You really should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the best option
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
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 distinct hearing loss.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires 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 pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.