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 offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you grow up, 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 go for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your day-to-day experiences. Social solitude that often 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 friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.
In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also recognize that some individuals just never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (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 good fit
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- 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 customized for those situations.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, 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 a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you figure out what hearing aid type is right for you.