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 you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be real detrimental 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 solitude, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you age.
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 serious health issues.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to buy.
Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. 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 acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy 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 option
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively manage your hearing loss most likely 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. OTC hearing aids are usually almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
- When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- 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 crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
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 throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be capable of getting better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide 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.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.