You’re Taking Chances 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 recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at supermarkets? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But you begin to become more particular in your taste as you get older. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you tend to go for your favorite brand. Suddenly, those smaller containers are the ones that are appealing.

But you will probably still opt 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. In some scenarios, you will want to go for the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

Of course, we’re also discussing hearing aids here. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your plans are.

There can be significant negative effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on your day-to-day activities. When you have neglected hearing loss, you can encounter social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you encounter other people 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 lonely. And as you age, your mental faculties can deteriorate faster.

So it isn’t simply that you can’t hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be enhancing your risk of other potentially serious health issues.

How do over-the-counter hearing aids work?

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

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You simply 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 pick up and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive impact on your life.

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

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 rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their 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 option for people who just aren’t ready to make the leap. But prescription hearing aids were never meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

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 from prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or personalized as prescription hearing aids. They will also not fit quite 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 circumstances. An OTC hearing aid might work best for you if:

  • You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You definitely should. But we also recognize that some people simply never will.) An OTC hearing aid is typically better than no hearing aid at all.
  • You have really simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they endorse using an OTC hearing aid. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even recommend which style or type, and what settings will work best.)

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

So are there downsides to OTC hearing aids? Are there adverse side effects of over-the-counter hearing aids?

Well every scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. Generally, 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 is that much lower in power?
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as expensive as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t 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 this.
  • 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 personalized for those situations.
  • You don’t know exactly which hearing aid to buy: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly profound stage. More severe cases of hearing loss will require a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.

Are there any dangers that come with OTC 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 distinct hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are a good fit for some individuals and prescription hearing aids are a good fit for others. Whichever option is best for your circumstance, your hearing aids will work better after you get an appointment with us.

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

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

If you believe you have hearing loss and want to find out if OTC hearing aids are right 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.