Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? 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 get older. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in certain situations, but you may want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your everyday experiences. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So it’s not just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health issues.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, 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 alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the consumer.
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 customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific cases. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse 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 set to use for emergencies.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. 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. (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? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every situation. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- 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.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
What are the dangers of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate 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
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, make an appointment with us today.