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Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? 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 you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those smaller 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. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have significant impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your everyday experiences. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you age.

So it isn’t only that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to buy.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

Sadly, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing 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?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal choice

So, what are the disadvantages of 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 everybody in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the ideal choice for you if:

  • A cheaper hearing aid that does not sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • You have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, 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 knowing more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, make an appointment with us today.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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