Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Are You Taking a Risk?

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 an entire 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 mature. Your ice cream tastes get more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those smaller containers are the ones that are enticing.

But you will still probably opt for that big bucket if you’re having a big dinner party. There are pros and cons 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.

This same mentality also pertains to hearing aids. How good are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream example, it depends on what your goals are.

Hearing loss can have serious affects

Your daily life can be seriously impacted by hearing loss. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social isolation, it’s harder to carry on even simple conversations, so you stay away from situations where you confront other individuals who might want to speak with you.

This can make you feel removed from your friends and family. When you go to the store you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can bring about a faster mental decline as you age.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

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

By their very nature, over-the-counter hearing aids are made to be convenient. You simply go into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re going home right after you get and pay for these devices. Once you put them in, 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

Over-the-counter hearing aids began appearing in stores around late 2022 after the Food and Drug Administration made some changes to certain rules that allowed for their wider distribution. The idea was that if hearing aids were more easily available, you’d end up with fewer people who had neglected hearing loss.

You’ve always had to go through somewhat of a process to get prescription hearing aids. And in some cases, that process can keep people away. For individuals who aren’t quite ready to take the step, over-the-counter hearing aids may be a good option. But prescription hearing aids were not meant to be replaced by over-the-counter models.

Sadly, this means that individuals now bear some of the burden of knowing when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).

What’s the essential difference between over-the-counter and 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 distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything useful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? Well, yes, in certain cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You’ve consulted your hearing specialist, and they suggest using an OTC hearing aid. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that may work best for you.)
  • Your hearing loss is in the early phases and is really simple. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work just fine.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing assessed. (You absolutely should. But we also recognize that some individuals just never will.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • You keep a set on hand just in case your prescription hearing aids need to go in for repair.

It’s fairly common for OTC presets to be pre-programmed when you buy them. Some devices are more effective for low-frequency hearing loss, others might be good for high-frequency hearing loss. (So before you invest in a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the ideal choice

So are there negative aspects to OTC hearing aids? Will you experience unwanted effects from OTC hearing aids?

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everyone in every situation. Generally, OTC hearing aids may not be the right solution for you if:

  • You need to hear in complex or noisy environments. Most prescription hearing aids can be customized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • You have more profound hearing loss. While OTC hearing aids can be helpful for mild and moderate hearing loss, severe hearing loss will require something more powerful and more sophisticated.
  • You think OTC hearing aids will save you a lot of money. OTC hearing aids are often nearly as costly as their prescription-only counterparts.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t 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.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to purchase is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone with hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?

Are there any risks 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 suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice 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 able to get better treatment once you understand more about your hearing loss. Whether your hearing loss calls for prescription hearing aids or OTC hearing aids, we can help you get the best treatment for your situation.

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

If you think you have hearing loss and want to find out 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.