Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a little more particular. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with you.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult 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 see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.
In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best option lies with the individual.
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 personalized functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are good for very 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 types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right option
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter 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. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. 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.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
- You have more severe hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (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? 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 specific hearing loss.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, making 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 guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, 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 the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.