You’re Taking Chances if You Opt For Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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

Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? As a kid, they were awesome because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But as you grow up, you start to get a bit more specific. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more appealing.

Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. 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 selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So it’s not just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially severe health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

It isn’t hard to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal choice

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that does not adequately manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still uncertain to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • You have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently 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 further damaging your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

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 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.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.

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.