Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Chance?

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 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 start to become more specific in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream preferences get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.

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

This same mentality also applies to hearing aids. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what you want to do.

Hearing loss can have significant affects

Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that frequently comes along with hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you’re unable to hear what others are saying.

This can cause you to feel removed from your friends and family. You even steer clear of the cashier at the supermarket. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can deteriorate faster.

So not only are you missing out on conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less fun, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about also!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

It isn’t hard to understand why individuals would want to go towards hearing aids that can be purchased easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed to be convenient. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You pick up a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they function to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing on store shelves in late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The rule change focused on getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit 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 solution for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Regrettably, this means that consumers now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good fit (and when they aren’t).

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit particularly as well, and they won’t be personalized to your needs.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? There actually can be some advantages to an OTC in particular situations. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for very mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (You definitely should. But we also understand that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. Some types are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be effective for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right option

So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter 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. Generally, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy settings. 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.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will need something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You’re only thinking about OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. Well, prescription hearing aids often don’t cost a great deal 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 who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. In some cases, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only feasible with a prescription hearing aid.

What are the risks of over-the-counter hearing aids? In general, 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

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some people and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you have an appointment with us.

You will be able to get better treatment once you know more about your hearing loss. We can help steer you toward the best hearing aid for your situation, whether it’s OTC or prescription.

We can also help you get the most out of your new technology.

If you think you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are right for you, make an appointment with us today.

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.