Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Risk?

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

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? As a kid, they were awesome because they promised a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers begin to become more 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 scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what people are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you age.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about also!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to buy.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect on your life.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some scenarios

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

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to deal with the process. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the individual.

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:

  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.

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 good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal option

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. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:

  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • 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 profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.

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 people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. 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 guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

In the same way, 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 right for you.

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.

Questions? Talk To Us.

    Delaney Hearing Center

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