Hearing Health Blog

Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you begin to get a little more specific. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are pros and cons to each choice. 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 discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day experiences. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who may want to talk to you.

This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So it’s not simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

It’s not hard to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult 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 head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can work

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many people, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

Unfortunately, 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?

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription 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? Well, yes, in certain situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:

  • 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’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some people just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy 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 ideal option

So are there negative aspects to OTC 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. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • 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 customized for those situations.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)

Are there any risks 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 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. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

In the same way, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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