Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you grow up, you begin to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers start to become more enticing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have significant affects
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with you.
This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So it isn’t simply that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially serious health problems.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
It’s not hard to understand why people would want to go 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. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.
In some instances 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 rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the consumer.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some people just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
- You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. 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 choice. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a practical fit
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are frequently nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.