You’re Taking Risks if You go With Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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 grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more specific in your taste as you get older. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a large dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain situations, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other situations.

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How good 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 impacts

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your day-to-day activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.

This can cause you to feel distant from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And as you age, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

So it’s not just that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

It isn’t hard to recognize why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. Instead of going to see a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just go into your local pharmacy. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

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 neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people 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.

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).

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might 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 right option

So are there negative aspects 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 everybody in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for less significant hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment when you know more about your hearing loss. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, 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 see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule 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.