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Pharmacy drugstore blur abstract background with medicine and over the counter hearing aids on shelves

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 promised a whole 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 particular. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that each type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to have even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to speak with you.

This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

So it’s not just that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to see the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to get.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.

In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad choice for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. 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 choice (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

In general, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids are not a good fit

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 situation. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are usually almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • Is the money you paid 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? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.

See a hearing specialist either way

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be capable of getting better treatment when you understand more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt 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.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.