Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. 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 a better solution.
Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that frequently accompanies 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 family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you age.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
It’s not difficult to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. 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 work in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that individuals 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 a lot 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 certain cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some people just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal option
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everybody in every situation. OTC hearing will not be the best choice for you if:
- When you’re in complex 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 personalized for those situations.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t 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 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.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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.
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.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for 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 determine what hearing aid type is right for you.