Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!
But you start to become more particular in your taste as you mature. You start opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other situations.
Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your day-to-day life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social isolation that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It isn’t difficult to recognize why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be profoundly and positively impacted by this.
In some circumstances over-the-counter hearing aids can work
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, sadly, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.
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 customizable functions than OTC hearing aids. They will also not fit quite as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already programmed in. Some types are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).
When OTC hearing aids are not a practical 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. OTC hearing won’t be the best choice for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
- You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
- You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
- When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
What are the risks 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 specific hearing loss.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
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 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.
Make an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is right for you.