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

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 get at supermarkets? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. 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 appealing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

There can be real negative effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday experiences. Social solitude that often comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.

Which means you wind up estranged 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 as you get older, 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 issues to worry about also!

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s not very difficult to recognize the appeal of hearing aids that are easy to get.

Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively impacted by this.

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

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 easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay 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 never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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 consumer.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have very basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.

Usually, 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 designs will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution

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:

  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • 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 profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)

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 specific hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be okay, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your circumstance, 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 symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

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

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right 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.