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 get those gallon buckets of ice cream at the grocery store? An entire gallon of ice cream, yum!

But as you grow up, you start to get a little more particular. Your ice cream tastes become more specialized and you tend to opt for your favorite brand. All of a sudden, those littler containers are the ones that are appealing.

Still, 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 scenarios, you will want to go with the specialized option, and in others, the generic will be a better solution.

Obviously, we’re also talking about hearing aids here. How effective 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 seriously effected by hearing loss. Social solitude that often accompanies hearing loss can cause you to avoid having conversations because you can’t hear what people are saying.

Which means you find yourself estranged from your friends and family. When you go to the supermarket you go to self-checkout so you can steer clear of the cashiers. It’s lonely. And it can lead to a faster cognitive decline as you age.

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids – how they function

It’s not difficult to recognize why individuals would want to move towards hearing aids that can be bought easily, given the health consequences of hearing loss.

Convenience is the very nature of the attraction of over-the-counter hearing aids. You just walk into your local pharmacy and you never have to make an appointment with a hearing specialist. You’re on your way home as soon as you get and pay for these devices. They basically amplify all of the sound around you.

Your life can be greatly and positively impacted by this.

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

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 rule change aimed at getting hearing aids to more people who really need them for their untreated hearing loss.

It’s never been difficult to obtain a prescription hearing aid, but it is a process. And in some cases, that process can cause people to stay away. Over-the-counter hearing aids might not be a bad solution 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.

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 consumer.

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

In general, OTC hearing aids aren’t quite as powerful, capable, or customizable as prescription hearing aids. They won’t be personalized to your distinct requirements and they won’t fit as well.

So is there anything helpful or beneficial about OTC hearing aids? There actually can be some benefits to an OTC in specific circumstances. OTC hearing aids might be the best option if:

  • You want a spare pair in case of emergencies.
  • Your hearing specialist is suggesting an OTC. (For best outcomes, ask your hearing specialist to go over settings and style types that might work best for you.)
  • You’re never going to get your hearing checked. (Some people never will, even though they absolutely should.) Usually, using an OTC hearing aid will be better than using nothing.
  • Your hearing loss is in the early stages and is very simple. These devices are great for really mild or moderate hearing loss.

Usually, OTC hearing aids are sold with specific presets already in place. If your hearing loss is in the lower frequencies, some models will be best and if you have high-frequency hearing loss other designs will be the best choice. (So before you buy a hearing aid, you should definitely get a better concept of your level and type of hearing loss.).

OTC hearing aids are frequently not the right choice

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

Well, let’s just say that OTC hearing aids aren’t a great fit for everybody in every circumstance. OTC hearing won’t be the ideal choice for you if:

  • You’re only interested in OTC hearing aids because of perceived cost savings. Well, prescription hearing aids frequently don’t cost much more than OTC hearing aids.
  • You need to hear in challenging or noisy environments. Depending on what settings you need to hear in and precisely what you’re listening to, prescription hearing aids can be customized for those situations.
  • Is the money you paid really worth it if that OTC hearing aid is that much lower in power?
  • Your hearing loss has progressed to a fairly severe stage. While OTC hearing aids can be good for mild and moderate hearing loss, profound hearing loss will need something more powerful and more refined.
  • OTC hearing aids aren’t custom fit the way you may need them to be. A custom fit is sometimes necessary for some people and OTC hearing aids don’t allow this.
  • You don’t know precisely which hearing aid to buy: For some people with hearing loss, the wrong hearing aids can actually harm their ears. (It’s like the equivalent of wearing really loud earbuds.)

Are there any dangers that come with OTC hearing aids? Generally speaking, if you aren’t a good candidate for OTC hearing aids, you could be wasting some money or making your hearing loss worse.

Either way, you should consult a hearing specialist

OTC hearing aids are a good fit 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 understanding more about your hearing loss will help you get better treatment. We can help guide you toward the best hearing aid for your symptoms, 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.

Talk To Us.

To send us a non-urgent message use the message us button on the bottom right of your screen.

Our contact form is for non-urgent questions only and should not be used for life threatening or urgent medical questions. You should contact 911 for life threatening emergencies.