You’re Taking Risks if You Opt For Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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 find at grocery stores? As a kid, they were the best thing ever because they promised a whole 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 get older. You begin opting for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those little containers begin to become more appealing.

But you will still probably go for that big bucket if you’re hosting a big dinner party. There are pros and cons to each choice. Generic is good in certain 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 worthwhile? Well, it’s a lot like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious impacts

Your day-to-day life can be significantly impacted by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s harder to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other people who may want to speak with you.

This can make you feel removed from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the supermarket. It’s lonely. And it can cause a faster mental decline as you get older.

So not only are you failing to hear conversations with your loved ones (making holidays and birthdays a lot less enjoyable, for instance), but you have other health problems to worry about too!

How do over-the-counter hearing aids function?

It’s not hard to understand why people would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health repercussions of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You grab a pair of these devices, pay for them, and go home. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

In some instances over-the-counter hearing aids can do the job

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed some rules about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. The thinking was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had untreated hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to acquire prescription hearing aids. And sometimes, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad choice for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. 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 recognizing when over-the-counter hearing aids are or aren’t the right option lies with the individual.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

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

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You keep a pair on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some individuals never will, even though they definitely should.) An OTC hearing aid is generally better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. These devices are good for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • You’ve checked with your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)

It’s pretty common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. 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).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal choice

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 good fit for everybody in every situation. In general, OTC hearing aids might not be the right solution for you if:

  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to purchase: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for somebody with hearing loss. (It’s not much different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud setting.)
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • You need to hear in complex or noisy settings. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and exactly what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. Sometimes, you may require something with a custom fit, which is only possible with a prescription hearing aid.
  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because you think they cost a lot less. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.

What are the risks of over-the-counter 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.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

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

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

In the same way, we can help you better adapt to a new pair of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to see if OTC hearing aids are the right choice for you, schedule 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.