Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have significant impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday experiences. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other people who may want to speak with you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
It isn’t difficult to understand why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate choice lies with the individual.
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You’re never going 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.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- OTC hearing aids are not 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.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
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 distinct hearing loss.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment when you understand 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 adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you believe 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.