Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more specific in your taste as you mature. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.

Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social isolation 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 family and friends. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And as you age, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

It’s not difficult to recognize why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set 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 do the trick in some situations

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed 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 right option lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different than 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 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 might be the best option if:

  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some individuals simply never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • 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 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.
  • You have more severe hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.

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

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because understanding more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

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

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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.
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