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

Remember when you used to be able to find 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. You begin going for the more specialized ice cream: the Haagen-Daaz, the Tillamook, the Ben & Jerry’s. Those smaller containers begin to become more appealing.

Nevertheless, if you’re hosting a large dinner party, you’re likely to go for those generic buckets of Kemp’s ice cream. There are pros and cons to each choice. In some situations, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

This same mindset also pertains to hearing aids. How effective are those new over-the-counter hearing aids? Well, much like our ice cream illustration, it depends on what you want to do.

There can be real detrimental effects from hearing loss

Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your everyday activities. When you have untreated hearing loss, you can experience social solitude, it’s more difficult to have even basic conversations, so you steer clear of situations where you confront other people who may want to speak with you.

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

So it isn’t simply that you’re unable to hear what your family and friends are saying, but you could also be increasing your risk of other potentially severe health problems.

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they work

Given the harm that hearing loss can lead to, it’s not very difficult to see the appeal of hearing aids that are simple to purchase.

Convenience is the very backbone of the appeal of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just go into your local pharmacy and you never need to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home right after you pick up and pay for these devices. They essentially amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively influenced by this.

Over-the-counter hearing aids can do the trick in some scenarios

In 2022 the Food and Drug Administration changed the rule about the distribution of hearing aids that allowed stores like pharmacies to sell them. The rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their neglected hearing loss.

It’s never been hard to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And sometimes, 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 alternative. 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 determining when OTC hearing aids are a good choice (and when they aren’t).

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

As a general rule, prescription hearing aids are more powerful and have much more personalized functions than OTC 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 any good at all? Well, yes, in some cases. An OTC hearing aid may work best for you if:

  • You have very simple or early-stage hearing loss. For mild instances of hearing loss, these devices will work ok.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For optimum outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to address settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You want a spare set to use for emergencies.
  • You have no intention of getting your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they definitely should.) 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 frequencies, some types will be the right choice and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best option. (So before you purchase a hearing aid, you should certainly get a better idea of your level and type of hearing loss.).

When OTC hearing aids aren’t a good fit

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

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

  • Your hearing aids don’t fit very well. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some individuals and OTC hearing aids don’t allow for this.
  • Is the money you spent really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • When you’re in complex and noisy spaces, you need to be able to hear. Most prescription hearing aids can be personalized depending on what you need to hear and where you need to hear it.
  • Exactly which hearing aid to invest in is still unknown to you: The wrong hearing aids can actually make your hearing worse for someone who has hearing loss. (It’s comparable to using really loud earbuds.)
  • You’re only considering OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. OTC hearing aids are usually nearly as costly as their prescription-only alternative.
  • Your hearing loss has advanced to a fairly severe stage. More profound cases of hearing loss will call for a more powerful prescription hearing aid while mild cases may do fine with OTC hearing aids.

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 distinct hearing loss.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are suitable for some people and prescription hearing aids are the best choice for others. But either way, scheduling an appointment can help your hearing aids work better.

That’s because learning 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 adjust 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 determine what hearing aid type is best 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.