Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are FDA-regulated medical devices that can be bought without getting a hearing exam, prescription, or even an appointment with an audiologist.
In October 2022, the FDA established a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids for individuals aged 18 and above with mild to moderate hearing loss.
A closer look at over-the-counter hearing aids
How different are over-the-counter hearing aids from prescription hearing aids? Let’s take a look at OTC hearing aids:
- OTC hearing aids are air-conduction devices that do not require surgical intervention or implantation.
- Intended for individuals 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
- Available to consumers without the involvement, supervision, or prescription of an audiologist or licensed healthcare professional.
Who can benefit from over-the-counter hearing aids?
Over-the-counter hearing aids can be a good option for adults who have mild to moderate degrees of hearing loss and are looking for an affordable solution.
However, it’s worth noting that OTC hearing aids are not recommended for children or people with severe to profound degrees of hearing loss, as they may require more powerful hearing aids with targeted care. If you have experienced a sudden hearing loss or have a unilateral hearing loss you should see a professional prior to pursuing this option.
Potential downsides to over-the-counter hearing aids
There are some potential downsides to using OTC hearing aids, with one major concern involving the fact that they may not be as effective as prescription hearing aids.
Traditional hearing aids are programmed based on your hearing test results. This ensures that you are getting the appropriate amount of gain for each ear at each frequency. Most OTC hearing aids are not custom-fitted to an individual’s ear, which means that they cannot provide the same level of amplification, clarity, speech enhancement, and hearing improvement as a traditional or prescription hearing aid.
Additionally, some individuals may observe that over-the-counter hearing aids are uncomfortable or challenging to use and adjust, especially if it’s their first time using such devices.
What are prescription hearing aids?
Prescription hearing aids are hearing devices that are only available through an audiologist or licensed hearing health care professional. Audiologists are trained to program hearing aids to match a patient’s unique level of hearing loss.
What is the difference between over-the-counter hearing aids and PSAPs?
Over-the-counter hearing aids and personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) are devices that can help improve hearing for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
In some instances, over-the-counter hearing aids and PSAPs may easily be mixed up. There are even some cases where consumers believe that PSAPs are cheaper alternatives to hearing aids.
When you examine the functions and benefits of OTC hearing aids and PSAPs, it is easy to see key differences between the two:
Over-the-counter hearing aids:
- Available for purchase without a prescription or a visit to an audiologist
- For mild to moderate hearing loss
- Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Amplify sound for individuals who do not have hearing loss
- May improve hearing in difficult listening situations
- Not regulated by the FDA
- Not intended to be a substitute for hearing aids
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: From an Audiologist’s POV
One of the main advantages of working with an audiologist to address hearing loss is having access to custom-fitted hearing aids that are tailored to match your unique hearing loss.
Audiologists are trained to conduct comprehensive hearing evaluations that can diagnose the specific type and degree of hearing loss, and identify any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to hearing loss.
In addition to providing a custom fit, prescription hearing aids come with various benefits that are not available with over-the-counter hearing aids. These benefits include access to the latest hearing aid technology, ongoing support and maintenance, and adjustments to the hearing aid as needed.
Bottomline: Our take on over-the-counter hearing aids
Overall, over-the-counter hearing aids may serve as a temporary option for some individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. However, we recommend consulting with an audiologist prior to purchasing an over-the-counter hearing to ensure that you are making an informed decision.
At the end of the day, over-the-counter hearing aids come with significant drawbacks. They are not custom-fitted, which means that they may not provide the appropriate level of amplification. OTC hearing aids may also not be appropriate for people with severe to profound hearing loss or other hearing conditions that require specialized care.
Audiologists and Hearing Aids in Abilene, TX
Keep in mind that achieving significant hearing improvement does not solely rely on getting the right hearing aid, but also support from the expertise and professional care of audiologists.
Abilene Audiology Co. offers a wide selection of hearing aids in Abilene, TX. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!