Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you start to get a little more particular. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday activities. Social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to see the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to buy.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Sadly, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everyone in every situation. 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.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- When you’re in challenging 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 personalized for those situations.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not adequately manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
What are the risks 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.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, scheduling 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. We can help steer 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 see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.