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

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the supermarket? 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 as you grow up, you begin to get a little more particular. You start going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers start to become more appealing.

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

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. Are new over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your daily life can be seriously effected by hearing loss. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people 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 use self-checkout so you can avoid the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you get older, your cognitive faculties can decline faster.

So it’s not only that you can’t hear what your friends and family are saying, but you could also be enhancing your chances of other potentially severe health problems.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

Given the damage that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are simple to buy.

Convenience is the very backbone of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they work to boost the sound around you.

Your life can be profoundly and positively influenced by this.

In some situations 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 wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more readily available, you’d wind up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through a bit of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. Many individuals, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But over-the-counter hearing aids weren’t manufactured to replace their prescription counterparts.

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

How are OTC hearing aids different than 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 some situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You have no plan to get your hearing checked. (You really should. But we also understand that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You keep a set around just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.

Typically, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs 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? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. In general, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • You have more profound hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • Your hearing aids don’t fit well. A custom fit is frequently necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often almost as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. 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.

Are there any risks that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good fit for OTC hearing aids, you could be throwing some money away or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

For some individuals, OTC hearing aids will be fine, but for others, prescription hearing aids will be necessary. Whichever decision is best for your situation, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get 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.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt 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 find out what hearing aid type is right 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.

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