Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised 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 tastes become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers begin to become more enticing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. 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 considerable effect on your day-to-day experiences. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
This can make you feel distant from your family and friends. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less fun, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
It isn’t difficult to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly 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 changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not 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 essential difference between over-the-counter and 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 particularly 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 particular situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also understand that some people just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (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 often not the ideal option
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
- 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 not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
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.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.
Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.