Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? 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 you begin to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
Hearing loss can have significant 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’re unable to hear what people are saying.
This can make you feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So it’s not only that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially serious health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
It’s not difficult to recognize why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios
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 broader 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 a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, sadly, 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 could be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate option lies with the individual.
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have a lot more personalized features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in specific cases. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good solution
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Are there 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. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal option for you if:
- You have more severe hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not sufficiently manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, 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 needed. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
You will be able to get better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.