Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you begin to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for instance), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to buy.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they work to boost the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can work
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many people, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Sadly, 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 than 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 customized to your needs.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific cases. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some types are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every situation. OTC hearing will not be the best choice for you if:
- 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.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are frequently nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not adequately manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer 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.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.