Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you start to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers start to become more enticing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.
This can make you feel distant from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it isn’t only that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to buy.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they function to amplify 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 situations
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 wider distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad solution for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Regrettably, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).
How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be able to get better treatment once 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.
If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.