Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But as you get older, you begin to get a little more specific. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.
But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
This same attitude also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be real negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who might want to speak with you.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So it isn’t simply that you’re unable to hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It isn’t difficult to recognize why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that consumers 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 from 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 particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:
- Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
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 purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter 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 will not be the best option 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.
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth what it cost you.
- 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 have more severe hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant 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 who has hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
What are the risks of over-the-counter 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 distinct hearing loss.
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 situation, 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 get better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.