Remember when you used to be able to find those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you grow up, 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. Those smaller containers begin to become more appealing.
Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some circumstances, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.
This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.
Hearing loss can have serious affects
Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.
This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So it’s not simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health problems.
How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made 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.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate 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 customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in some situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
- You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
- You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are often not the ideal choice
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
- Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
Are there any risks 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 people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. 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. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.
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 right for you.