You’re Taking Chances if You go With Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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

Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? 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 as you grow up, you start to get a bit more particular. 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 still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you may want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.

Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have significant affects

Your day-to-day life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you age.

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

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

It isn’t difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios

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 idea was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might 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.

But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate choice lies with the consumer.

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot 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 positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. Some types are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:

  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are usually almost 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 might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.

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

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

You will be capable of getting better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new pair 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.

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.