Over-the-counter hearing devices have been a hot topic over the past year or so. We’ve been getting many questions about them as ads seem to be popping up everywhere, promising improved hearing.
The hype continues after the huge announcement from the FDA on August 16, 2022. It stated that they are moving forward with the plan to make OTCs even more accessible to help reduce the cost of hearing healthcare.
There’s a lot to unpack here because it’s not a cut-and-dry answer as to whether or not this is good for the hearing healthcare industry. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
What Are OTCs Exactly?
Over-the-counter hearing devices are devices that you can purchase online or from a local pharmacy. They have a primary function, and that is to amplify sound.
OTC devices have their place in the market, just like reading glasses have their place. Some people will find they help. The majority of people will get benefits but still have issues that aren’t being addressed.
I predict that more people struggling to hear will try to get help sooner because of OTC devices. These are people that would have probably waited for years until they were really struggling, before seeking help.
Who Will They Benefit Most?
In keeping with the eyeglasses comparison, reading glasses only reach a certain power. While they help some, many still need an even stronger correction. Also, they only provide a magnification correction, so if someone has astigmatism or cataracts, the readers cannot address that.
The same is true for OTC hearing devices.
While they can increase the volume, they cannot give different volumes at different pitches. The features in a prescriptive hearing aid such as noise reduction, feedback suppression, compression, beamforming, etc., help with comfort and clarity.
OTCs only benefit those with mild and simplistic hearing loss. Even if this describes you, chances are they won’t help you for long if your hearing continues to decline.
OTC vs. Prescription Hearing Aid
Here is a breakdown of the significant differences between the two possible solutions for your hearing issue.
Prescription Hearing Aids
- Prescribed using personal data collected from your comprehensive hearing test
- Connects to smartphones and smart TVs for volume streaming
- Custom-fit to your ear’s unique curvature
- Ongoing aftercare provided
- Helps when there is background noise in active settings
- Available through many insurance programs
- An advanced piece of technology with different settings to assist many different types of hearing conditions
Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices
- No aftercare provided
- Does not require a hearing test or any guidance from a professional
- Can be purchased at your local pharmacy
- Must perform the fitting by yourself
- Only suited for those with mild hearing loss
How to Get the Best Care for Your Hearing Loss
Partnering with a local audiologist is the only way to guarantee your needs are being tended to specifically. A hearing care professional will:
- Follow best practices and assess your hearing
- Explain the results
- Make recommendations based on your responses to tones and speech
- Test the device to make sure it meets manufacturer specifications
- Choose the correct wire lengths and dome acoustics
- Program the hearing aid based on prescriptive measures calculated in your ear
- Train you on how to operate the device
- Routinely see you for professional cleanings of the devices and program revisions.
OTC hearing aids will increase awareness and weaken the negative stigma that can be associated with wearing hearing aids. We are open to seeing patients who have OTC hearing aids and offer a trade-in value toward prescriptive hearing aids if the OTC devices are not meeting their needs.
Now that you know the benefits of having a local and professional audiologist in your corner, the next step is to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment.
We use this non-invasive and painless test to better understand your hearing so we can match you perfectly to a device that will suit you. Sometimes that is an OTC; we won’t know until we get you in the sound booth.
If you have any other questions regarding the health of your hearing, please contact us anytime. We are always standing by to help.