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Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at grocery stores? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole 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 Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring for those generic Kemp’s ice cream buckets. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. Generic is good in certain circumstances, but you might want more specific ice cream in other situations.

Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your day-to-day activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.

This can make you feel removed from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you get older.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the damage that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction 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 grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their broader distribution. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more conveniently available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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

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 much more personalized functions than OTC 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? Well, yes, in some situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals just never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for maintenance.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. Some types are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).

When OTC hearing aids are not a good fit

So, what are the disadvantages of over-the-counter hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:

  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • A cheaper hearing aid that doesn’t adequately manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: For some individuals who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s not much different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? In general, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you figure out what hearing aid type is right for you.

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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.
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