Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you begin to get a little more particular. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers start to become more enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your day-to-day life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other people who may want to speak with you.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It isn’t difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply walk 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 head 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 scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to take the place of 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 choice lies with the consumer.
How are OTC hearing aids different than 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 requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good solution
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- You have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
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 understanding 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 circumstance.
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, schedule an appointment with us today.