Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers begin to become more enticing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your day-to-day activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other people who may want to talk to you.
This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.
So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.
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 bought easily, given the health consequences 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 need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly 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 idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many people, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t 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 everyone in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are frequently nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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 distinct hearing loss.
See a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because understanding 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.
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 right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.