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 recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to find at supermarkets? 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 as you get older, you start to get a little more specific. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Turkey Hill, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. Which means that each kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and drawbacks. Generic is good in some situations, but you may want more specialized ice cream in other circumstances.

Of course, we’re also referring to hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have significant affects

Your daily life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with 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 avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays much less fun, 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 understand why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be obtained easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just stroll into your local pharmacy. You pick up a pair 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.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can work in some situations

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around 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 end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad option for individuals who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids were never designed to take the place of their prescription counterparts.

Regrettably, 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).

How are OTC hearing aids different than 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 particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in certain circumstances. OTC hearing aids may be the best choice if:

  • 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 advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is very simple. For mild cases of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing test. (You really should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.

It’s pretty typical for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you get them. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you buy any hearing aid, OTC or not).

OTC hearing aids are often not the right choice

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

Well every scenario won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the ideal option 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 this.
  • When you’re in challenging and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still uncertain to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • A less expensive hearing aid that does not effectively treat your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.

Are there any dangers 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 specific hearing loss.

See a hearing specialist either way

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

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

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.

Schedule an appointment with us so we can help you figure 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.