Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered a whole 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 bit more particular. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers start to become more enticing.
But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in some situations, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.
Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. 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.
There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.
So it’s not only that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially serious health issues.
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 easy to get.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing 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 a lot more personalized functions than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the best choice
So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everyone in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. In some cases, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as expensive as their prescription-only alternative.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. 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.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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.
Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. 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.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.