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

Remember when you used to be able to get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you mature. Your ice cream preferences become more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Those smaller containers start to become more appealing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re hosting a large dinner party. There are benefits and drawbacks to each choice. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Of course, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. Are newer over-the-counter hearing aids any good? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day experiences. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even basic conversations, so you avoid situations where you encounter other individuals who may want to talk to you.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your family and friends. You even avoid the cashier at the grocery store. It’s not a happy way to live. And it can lead to a faster mental decline as you get older.

So it’s not only that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your chances of other potentially severe health issues.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, 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. Instead of going to consult a hearing specialist and getting fitted for hearing aids, you just walk into your local pharmacy. You grab a set 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 impacted by this.

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

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

It’s never been difficult to get a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. Over-the-counter hearing aids may not be a bad option 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.

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.

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

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

So is there anything helpful or positive about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in some situations. OTC hearing aids might be the best choice if:

  • You want a spare set in case of emergencies.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will perform most optimally.)
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing test. (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.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some models will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (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 best choice

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

Well every situation won’t include OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing will not be the ideal option for you if:

  • You have more profound hearing loss. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while minor cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid isn’t effective in treating your hearing loss?
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you might need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. The majority of prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some individuals with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s not a lot different than if you turn your earbuds up to a really loud volume.)

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

OTC hearing aids are suitable 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 knowing 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 situation.

Similarly, we can help you better adapt to a new set of hearing aids, and get the most out of the technology.

Make 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.