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 offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that each type 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 a better solution.
Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your day-to-day life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to see the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to get.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.
In some situations over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
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 rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For individuals 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 not designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also acknowledge that some individuals simply never will.) 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 really mild or moderate hearing loss.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the best choice
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- 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 comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. 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 get better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, 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 the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.