Are Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices the Same as Prescription Hearing Aids?

08/19/2022 | Hearing Aids, News, Patient Resources, Technology | 0 comments

Until a few years ago, the term “hearing aid” only meant one thing. It’s a device used to enhance one’s hearing when their natural hearing has declined to a point where it affects their everyday life. 

Now we have many large corporations trying to muddy the waters regarding defining their product. There are many ads, commercials, and even articles touting the brilliance of new over-the-counter devices, but we caution you. 

Before committing to a product you saw on the internet, we encourage you to get all the information first. Technology moves fast, and at the end of the day, we are dealing with your health and livelihood. We want to take all the necessary measures to ensure your hearing is healthy. 

What Is an Over-The-Counter Hearing Device?

The selection, fitting, and adjustments of over-the-counter devices fall primarily on you. To ensure they work at all, you must make adjustments within their app and get the proper fit by yourself so they don’t fall out or get damaged.

In addition, over-the-counter hearing devices are not designed for hearing losses greater than mild. If somebody has a more severe hearing loss, they’re not going to notice much of an improvement, if any. 

It’s similar to when somebody is at the beginning stages of needing eyeglasses. They might not need a prescription yet, so they get readers instead. 

Let’s dive into the pros and cons of over-the-counter hearing devices.

OTC Pros:

Great for Mild Hearing Loss – In most cases, an OTC will help people who have just begun to experience hearing loss. An OTC is an amplification tool that can be advantageous to people who only need a small amount of assistance.

Cheaper – OTC devices range in price, but overall, they are less expensive than prescribed hearing aids. They’re meant for minor hearing loss and don’t take into account any existing medical conditions. 

OTC Cons:

Unreliable – OTCs are stock products made with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. They cast a wide net in the hopes of selling a lot while not causing any further damage.

Lack of Testing – Identifying your core issue is the first place to start when searching for help. OTCs do not provide individual testing; therefore, you may end up with a device that is not specifically catered to address your problem.

May Cause Further Damage – In some extreme cases, having the wrong OTC can actually do more harm than good. There may be issues with the volume or background noise canceling that could lead to further and more debilitating problems. Depending on your previous condition, an OTC could create impacted wax, canal damage, or lead to cognitive issues if left untreated.

With A Comprehensive Hearing Assessment, You Can Find Out Which Device Will Help You The Most.

Prescription Hearing Aid Pros:

Higher Quality – Prescription hearing aids have been around for a long time. With this experience, we can customize the settings to address each person’s specific needs. Increased volume and reducing background noise are two things that a traditional hearing aid will improve vastly compared to an OTC. While OTCs claim to solve this problem, the reviews are mixed.

Personalized Testing – With each prescription hearing aid, we test and fit you precisely to your needs and expectations. Our first priority is identifying the leading problem and correctly diagnosing and treating it. By doing so, we can track and monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments along the way. 

Coverage Through Insurance Programs – In some cases, your hearing needs may be covered by your insurance company. This will significantly reduce costs and may even make them cheaper than OTCs. 

Continued Aftercare – Our staff is always ready and willing to assist. If you are experiencing problems with your hearing aid or need to make adjustments, just come into one of our offices and we’ll be happy to help.  

Prescription Hearing Aid Cons:

Price – If your insurance does not cover hearing aids, then the cost can be higher than that of an OTC but not in all cases. 

Which Is the Best Option For You?

OTC devices are primarily targeted at those who need a slight boost to their hearing or already know they have a mild hearing loss.

If you find yourself turning up the television or the volume on your cell phone, then an OTC may suit you.

But if you are:

  • Raising the volume and not getting the clarity you’re used to
  • Noticing that you have to use the speakerphone all the time
  • Struggling with background noise in lively environments

Then a prescription hearing aid will be better suited for your needs.

What Steps Should I Take Next?

If you suspect your hearing is at risk, the first step would be to get a hearing test. A full audiological evaluation will help us determine what’s going on within your ear. 

We don’t want somebody getting over-the-counter devices who may have a hearing loss that can be dealt with medically. Incorrect self-diagnosis is something we deal with all too often.  

You can schedule your test online or give us a call. We are always standing by to help.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jennifer LaBorde Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Jennifer LaBorde is an audiologist who has been in practice since 1999. She has a Masters in Communication Disorders from University of South Alabama, Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Disorders from the University of Mississippi, a Doctorate in Audiology from the University of Florida and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology.
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