You’re Taking Risks if You Opt For 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 grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you start to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers begin to become more enticing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Obviously, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other people who might want to speak with you.

Which means you wind up estranged from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can cause a faster cognitive decline as you get older.

So it isn’t simply that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially severe health issues.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids 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 purchase.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. Once they’re in your ears, they function to boost the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

In some cases over-the-counter hearing aids can work

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing 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 obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

But this means that some of the burden of recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best choice lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different from prescription hearing aids?

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

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids any good at all? Well, yes, in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they recommend using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You have no plan to get your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals simply never will.) Generally speaking, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.
  • You keep a pair around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.

It’s fairly typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are good for low-frequency hearing loss, others may be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids are not a good solution

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

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:

  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be personalized for those situations.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you crank your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)
  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t adequately treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly profound stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you might need something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are frequently almost as costly as their prescription-only alternative.

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 wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

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

That’s because knowing more about your hearing loss will help you find a 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 circumstance.

In the same way, 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.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.