Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? 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 start to become more particular in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s harder 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 family and friends. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you age, your mental faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it isn’t simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
It isn’t hard to understand why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale 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.
It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for individuals 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.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
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 much more personalized features 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 beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be able to get better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.