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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more enticing.

But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.

Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to have 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 family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to get.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

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

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also acknowledge that some people simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the ideal option for you if:

  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely 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 with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of using really loud earbuds.)

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.

See a hearing specialist either way

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

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.

Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is right for you.

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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.
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