Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are 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 every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who may want to talk to you.
This can cause you to feel removed 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 decline faster.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing 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 end 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 stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good substitute. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, 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).
What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain cases. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
- You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical fit
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter 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. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and further damaging 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
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.
In the same way, 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.