You’re Taking Chances if You Opt For Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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 grocery stores? As a kid, they were awesome 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 begin to get a bit more specific. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you may want more specific ice cream in other situations.

This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your everyday experiences. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you get older.

So it isn’t just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially serious health issues.

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 obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured 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 choice lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct needs 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 circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good 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 aren’t a good fit

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 good fit for everyone in every situation. OTC hearing will not be the ideal choice for you if:

  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe 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.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. 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.
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not effectively manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.

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.

Consult a hearing specialist either way

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

You will be capable of getting 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 circumstance.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.

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.