Remember when you used to be able to get 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 get older. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers start to become more appealing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting 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 specialized 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 example, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your everyday experiences. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it isn’t simply that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It isn’t hard to recognize why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may 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 appropriate option lies with the consumer.
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some people just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
It’s fairly typical 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 invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit
So are there negative aspects 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 everyone in every circumstance. OTC hearing will not be the ideal option for you if:
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings 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 precisely which hearing aid to purchase: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
What are the risks of over-the-counter 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.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires 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 right for you.