OTC Hearing Aids? What You Need to Know

Millions of Americans suffer from some level of hearing loss. For many of these people, the loss is moderate enough that they could benefit from a hearing aid. However, there are several factors that can deter people from getting the hearing device they need. Usually, it’s due to a perceived stigma or the expensive price of hearing aids.

If you are one of the many individuals who knows you need a hearing aid but think you can’t afford one, there may be a solution for you. More and more hearing aid brands are making cheaper options available over the counter. Over the counter hearing aids are available to correct hearing loss that ranges from mild to even moderate. It’s important to know as much information as possible about OTC hearing aids if you are considering buying one.

Importance of Hearing Aid to Improve Quality of Life

A hearing impairment can significantly impact your life in a number of ways. Obviously, it can prevent you from enjoying a full conversation with another person. However, hearing loss has also been shown to have a direct relationship with other health issues, including dementia and depression. You are also at a greater risk of falls if you have moderate hearing loss.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get hearing aids when they need them. Often, a person will put off seeking treatment until things get much worse. For example, individuals with sensorineural hearing loss — the most common type of hearing loss that’s caused by nerve damage — can suffer a sudden additional hearing loss that can adversely affect their lives. If this problem is treated quickly, that loss can be reversed, but if they delay, it can be permanent. Getting a hearing aid can prevent such additional hearing loss from occurring in the first place.

New FDA Requirements for OTC Hearing Aids

There are various types of hearing devices currently available on the market that can be purchased over the counter. Those include personal sound amplification products, also known as PSAPs, and hearing aids that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. At the same time, these devices have not been effectively reviewed per the new law requirements for OTC hearing aids. It’s expected that later this year, the FDA is going to release new requirements for these devices.

Some of the regulations surrounding the hearing aids are expected to include how loud they can be, their fine tuning capabilities and technical support, among other things. In addition, the majority of OTC hearing aids currently available on the market lack controls to fine tune the devices, so this particular change should be positive for users. It’s possible they may also be pre-programmed and be compatible with apps that allow users to customize them.

Challenges of OTC Hearing Aids

It takes time to adjust to hearing aids, which means whether you get them OTC or directly from your hearing care provider, fine tuning them can be tricky. No matter what type of hearing aid you get, they have to be properly adjusted to suit the maximum comfort and threshold level for your personal hearing loss. Additionally, unlike lenses for a pair of glasses to correct your vision, hearing aids must also be molded for the shape and depth of your ear canals.

Seeing an Audiologist is Crucial

It’s also important to make sure you schedule an appointment with an audiologist before you decide to go shopping for your OTC hearing aids. First and foremost, you can discuss your options with the hearing care professional to see if there may be something within your budget that would be right for correcting your hearing loss. You might be surprised to learn that the audiologist might be willing to work with you to find something affordable and that is custom-made for your level of hearing loss.

If you ultimately decide you want to go with the over the counter route because of the lower cost and convenience, you should still see an audiologist. Getting a hearing test is absolutely essential so you can take your results to your doctor. From there, your doctor can recommend the best OTC hearing aid available for you.

It’s important to remember that an over the counter hearing aid is not a one size fits all solution. Generally speaking, there is no such thing as a hearing aid that works for all people who suffer from hearing loss. Everyone is different and has different levels and even types of hearing loss. If it’s impractical to spend upwards of $4,000 or more for hearing aids, you should always make sure you know what’s out there. OTC hearing aids are only appropriate for individuals who have mild to moderate hearing loss that is situation specific. An audiologist can determine whether OTC hearing aids are right for you.