Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find 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 you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those smaller 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 every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some circumstances, but you may want more specific ice cream in other circumstances.
Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious impacts
Your daily life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other individuals who might want to talk to you.
This can cause you to feel removed from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not hard to understand why people would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing 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 aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right choice lies with the consumer.
What’s the essential 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 particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in some cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are good for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. 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 choice. (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 downsides 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 good fit for everyone in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
- You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not effectively manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- When you’re in complex 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 customized for those situations.
What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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 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 necessary. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you determine what hearing aid type is best for you.