Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised 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 Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
Still, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday experiences. Social isolation that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So it’s not just that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially severe health issues.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to see the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Regrettably, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
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 customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (You really should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) 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 address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
It’s fairly 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 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.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every situation. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:
- 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 personalized for those situations.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- 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 much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
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 wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, scheduling 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. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.