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

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? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin 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. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.

Still, 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 each type 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 situations.

This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. Social isolation that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the supermarket you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

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

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once you put them in, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids started to appear in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

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

Sadly, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of determining when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more customizable features than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in certain situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:

  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the best choice

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit for everyone in every circumstance. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You have more severe hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently treat your hearing loss probably 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 doing more damage to 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 individuals, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. 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 get 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.

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 the right choice 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.