Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? 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 as you get older, you begin to get a bit more specific. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers start to become more appealing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your day-to-day activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who might want to speak with you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health issues.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to buy.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
In some circumstances 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 including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, 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 alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best option lies with the individual.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (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 are not a practical fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC 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 good fit for everybody in every circumstance. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal option for you if:
- 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.
- 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 need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: For some individuals with 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.)
Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. 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 find a 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.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.