Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you start to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
This same attitude also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have significant impacts
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.
So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to get.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can work
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing 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 customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- You have really simple 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 recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also acknowledge that some people just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
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 models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (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 best choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are frequently nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, 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. 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 get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you figure out what hearing aid type is right for you.