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 a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. 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 hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other people who might want to speak with you.
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 lonely. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not hard to recognize why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their wider 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 hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad solution for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. 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 best choice lies with the consumer.
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more personalized 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 useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- 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.)
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you invest in 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 right choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you might need them to be. In some cases, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- 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 customized for those situations.
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not sufficiently treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? Generally speaking, 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 suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
In the same way, we can help you better adjust 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 find out if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.