Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they offered an entire gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you start to become more particular in your taste as you get older. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more appealing.
But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
Obviously, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.
Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster cognitive decline as you get older.
So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function
It’s not difficult to understand why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.
Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home right after you get and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of 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 scenarios
In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.
You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the appropriate option lies with the individual.
What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be customized to your needs.
So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:
- You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
- You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
- You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you purchase 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 ideal option
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you encounter undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best choice for you if:
- OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
- Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
- Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
- Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still uncertain to you: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
- When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, 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.
Are there any risks that come with OTC 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.
See a hearing specialist either way
For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide 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.
Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you find out what hearing aid type is best for you.