Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? As a kid, they were awesome because they offered an entire 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. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have significant impacts
Hearing loss can have a considerable effect on your day-to-day activities. Social solitude that often 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 steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s not hard to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply go 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 head home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated 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 keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (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 a lot more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy 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 good fit
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You have more profound hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild 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?
- When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate 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
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, schedule an appointment with us today.