Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole 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. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.

Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other people who may want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about too!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to get.

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect 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 rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. 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 somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate option lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable 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 advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. 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 definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. 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 option. (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 good solution

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter 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. OTC hearing will not be the ideal choice for you if:

  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not sufficiently manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
  • 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.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • 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.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money 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. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. 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.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.