Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find 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 get older, you start to get a little more particular. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you have a tendency to opt for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. Which means that every type of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain situations, but you might want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.
Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what your goals are.
Hearing loss can have serious affects
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day experiences. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even simple conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who might want to talk to you.
Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not hard to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.
Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some situations
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been hard to obtain 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 make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to replace their prescription counterparts.
Unfortunately, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).
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 features than OTC hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For best results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).
OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal option
So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:
- Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
- You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- A less expensive hearing aid that does not adequately treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe 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. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
Are there any risks that come with OTC 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.
See a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, making 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 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 pair 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 the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.