Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? As a kid, they were awesome because they offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you begin to become more specific in your taste as you get older. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more appealing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. 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
Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
It’s not hard to understand why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the sale 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 untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (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 a lot more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- 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 work best.)
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right option
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 include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- You have more severe hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. 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. 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.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right for you.