Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? 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 have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers start to become more enticing.
Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t 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 avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it isn’t just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It isn’t hard to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. 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 right after you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated 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 cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good substitute. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not 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 choice (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 much more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You definitely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. 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 designs will be the best option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a practical fit
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You have more profound hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
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 appropriate. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide 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 pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.