Up to 15% of Americans aged 18 and over have some degree of hearing loss. Most hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids, yet according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), out of all the adults who could benefit from hearing aids, very few seek treatment.
We’re starting to read more about Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids. OTC hearing aids would allow adults to purchase a hearing device in a store or online, without a prescription. However OTC hearing aids may not be the best choice to address hearing loss.
What is an Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid?
An OTC hearing aid pretty much does what it says on the box. Senator Elizabeth Warren sponsored the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which was passed into law in 2017. The idea is to make hearing aids even more accessible to adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
OTC hearing aids are available to purchase without a prescription. There are a few OTC devices that are available on the market today, including Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP). As devices, these are sometimes marketed inaccurately as hearing aids.
Limitations of Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Devices
Over-the-Counter hearing aids are designed to help the wearer with their day-to-day lives. OTC hearing aids will be “regulated as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)” (Source).
OTC hearing aids may seem like an attractive option. However, before making any decision you should be aware of the limitations of over the counter hearing aids.
No Clear Diagnosis
The nature of OTC hearing aids means that you do not need a professional evaluation or a prescription to purchase the devices. However, a professional hearing assessment is the best way to determine your actual hearing loss. Without this clear diagnosis, you may not be purchasing devices that address your actual loss - either in terms of what frequencies you may be missing or check for underlying issues that are contributing to your hearing loss.
One Size Does Not Fit All
OTC hearing aids are sold with factory settings by default, in one-size-fits-all models. However, hearing loss is not a one-size fits all. Different people will experience hearing loss differently. As a result, the requirements for their hearing aids are also different.
Fit and Comfort
It’s important if you’re purchasing hearing aids that you wear them. Comfort and fit play a big role in this! You won’t want to wear devices that cause discomfort throughout the day. Your hearing healthcare professional will ensure that you’re comfortable with the fit of your hearing aid devices. Plus, they will be able to make adjustments should those needs change down the line.
A great advantage of working with your local hearing care provider to find hearing aids is the ongoing support. Need your hearing devices cleaned? Your hearing healthcare clinic will be able to help with that. Are you looking for adjustments to your device? They can help with that too!
Unfortunately, OTC hearing aids do not come with this level of service. If you find yourself dissatisfied with the devices, or needing adjustments to be made, getting help can prove difficult.
Over-the-Counter hearing aid devices may be a cheap and cheerful alternative to prescription hearing aids. However, they cannot replicate the benefits of speaking to a hearing healthcare professional.
Our professionals provide more than just OTC hearing aids.
If you’re in need of hearing aid devices, please get in touch with the HearingLife (formerly Family Audiology) team today. To book an appointment, call 607-323-4061 or click here to book a consultation with us online. If you need hearing aids, we will fit you with the best solution for your ears.