Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you begin to get a little more particular. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious affects
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day activities. 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 family and friends. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.
So it isn’t just that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to get.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.
In some cases 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 aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good substitute. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right choice lies with the individual.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain 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 models will be the best choice. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal option
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience 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:
- 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.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
What are the risks of over-the-counter 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
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be able to get better treatment when 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.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.