Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you start to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers start to become more enticing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who might want to talk to you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. 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 friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health issues.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not hard to recognize why people would want to move 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. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations
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 aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their 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 individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to take the place of 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 option lies with the consumer.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in some cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You definitely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- You’ve checked with 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 perform most optimally.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a practical solution
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- 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 have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know 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.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.