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 an entire 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 opting 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.
Still, if you’re hosting a big dinner party, you’re likely to spring 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 situations, 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 new 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 real detrimental effects from hearing loss
Hearing loss can have a considerable impact on your everyday activities. Social isolation that frequently accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It isn’t a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you age.
So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making birthdays and holidays much less fun, for example), but you have other health issues to worry about also!
Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work
It isn’t hard to recognize why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.
By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively influenced by this.
In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job
Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some rule changes that allowed for their broader distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, that process can cause people to stay away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. 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 right option lies with the consumer.
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 won’t be personalized to your particular needs and they won’t fit as well.
So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in some cases. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:
- You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) 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 maintenance.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (For optimum results, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
- Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (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 practical fit
So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience undesirable effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the best option for you if:
- You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not adequately treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth what it cost you.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. Sometimes, you might require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, you need to be able to hear. Depending on what surroundings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
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 throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.
Consult a hearing specialist either way
OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever option is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.
You will be capable of getting better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
Similarly, we can help you better adjust to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.
If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, make an appointment with us today.