Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

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 find at supermarkets? As a kid, they were awesome 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 specific in your taste as you get older. You start 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.

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

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who might want to talk to you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the grocery store. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you age.

So not only are you failing to hear 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 function

It isn’t difficult to recognize why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never need to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.

In some circumstances 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 changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to purchase a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad solution for individuals 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 appropriate option lies with the consumer.

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 is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in specific situations. OTC hearing aids may be the best option if:

  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have really basic or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • 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.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models 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.).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution

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. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t sufficiently manage your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more refined.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to get is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. In some cases, you may need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and doing more damage to 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 people, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be appropriate. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

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

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.

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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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