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

Do you remember those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you get older, you start to get a bit more specific. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some situations, you will want to go for the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mindset also applies to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? 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 significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other people who might want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your family and friends. 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 it’s not simply that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially serious health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made 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’re on your way home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

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

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more individuals who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to get prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they avoid it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Unfortunately, this means that consumers 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 from prescription hearing aids?

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

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in particular circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • 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 want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.

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

OTC hearing aids are often not the right option

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every circumstance. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to purchase: For some people who have hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually damage their ears. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. 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 candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

See a hearing specialist either way

For some people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be needed. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

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.

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.