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

Do you recall those gallon buckets of ice cream you used to get at grocery stores? A whole gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you begin to get a bit more particular. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you have a tendency to go for your favorite brand. Those little containers begin to become more enticing.

But you will probably still go for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. Which means that every kind of ice cream has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. In some scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized selection, and in others, the generic will be the best choice.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, it’s much like that ice cream: it depends on what your goals are.

There can be significant detrimental effects from hearing loss

Your day-to-day life can be significantly effected by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can encounter social isolation, it’s more difficult to carry on even simple conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you encounter other individuals who might want to speak with you.

This can cause you to feel removed from your family and friends. When you go to the store you use self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It isn’t a happy way to live. And as you get older, your mental faculties can decline faster.

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 risk of other potentially serious health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can cause, it’s easy to see the attraction of hearing aids that are easy to get.

By their nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are designed 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’re going home as soon as you pick up and pay for these devices. Once they’re in your ears, they work to amplify the sound around you.

This can have a profoundly positive affect 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 sale of hearing aids that allowed stores including pharmacies to sell them. 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 people, unfortunately, feel intimidated by this process so they stay away from it. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to make that leap, over-the-counter hearing aids could be a good option. 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.

How are OTC hearing aids different than prescription hearing aids?

Generally speaking, OTC hearing aids are not quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your specific requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So, are over-the-counter hearing aids worthwhile at all? Well, yes, in specific circumstances. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.
  • Your hearing specialist is recommending an OTC. (Hopefully, your hearing specialist will even advise which style or type, and what settings will work best.)
  • You want a spare pair to use for emergencies.
  • You’re never going to get a hearing test. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using no hearing aid.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with certain presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower wavelengths, some types will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other models will be the best choice. (This is why it’s good to know more about your own hearing loss before you buy 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 scenario won’t call for OTC hearing aids, let’s just say. OTC hearing won’t be the best option for you if:

  • You believe OTC hearing aids will save you a ton of money. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost a great deal more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. More severe cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild 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 comparable to wearing really loud earbuds.)
  • OTC hearing aids are not custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • A less expensive hearing aid that doesn’t effectively treat your hearing loss probably isn’t worth the money you paid for it.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.

What are the dangers of over-the-counter 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.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

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

You will be capable of getting better treatment when you understand more about your hearing loss. 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.

Make an appointment with us so we can help you figure 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.