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 offered a whole gallon of ice cream, that’s a lot of frozen custard and high-fructose corn syrup!
But you begin to become more specific in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are enticing.
But you will probably still opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some circumstances, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.
Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.
There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss
Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to abstain from having conversations because you can’t hear what others are saying.
This can cause you to feel distant from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And as you age, your cognitive 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 instance), but you have other health problems to worry about too!
How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?
Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not hard to recognize the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to purchase.
By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a set of these devices, pay for them, and head home. Once you put them in, they work to boost the sound around you.
Your life can be significantly and positively impacted 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 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 untreated hearing loss.
It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. Many people, regrettably, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For people who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good alternative. But over-the-counter hearing aids were not manufactured to take the place of their prescription counterparts.
But this means that some of the burden of understanding when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the best option lies with the individual.
How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?
Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, efficient, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your particular requirements and they won’t fit as well.
So is there anything useful or positive about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:
- You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
- You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some individuals never will, even though they absolutely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
- Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
- Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already programmed in. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best option. (This is why it’s good to understand more about your own hearing loss before you purchase any hearing aid, OTC or not).
When OTC hearing aids aren’t a practical solution
So, what are the drawbacks to over-the-counter hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?
Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:
- A cheaper hearing aid that does not adequately manage your hearing loss most likely isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
- Your hearing aids don’t fit well. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
- You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
- When you’re in challenging and noisy settings, 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.
- 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.
- You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids commonly don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? You could be wasting good money and further damaging your ears by using OTC hearing aids if they’re not the best solution for your specific hearing loss.
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. But either way, making an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.
That’s because learning more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. Whether your hearing loss requires prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your circumstance.
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 the right choice for you, schedule an appointment with us today.