What You’ll Miss if You Get an OTC Hearing Aid

You may have heard from a friend or relative about a new over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid they just purchased. While it can be enticing from a price-point and convenience point of view, OTCs may not be all they’re cracked up to be. We review what you’re missing out on if you get an OTC hearing aid below.

What’s the Difference Between a Standard Hearing Aid & an OTC?

ENT doctor checking ear with otoscope of woman patient at hospital. Physician examining ear of female patient with an instrument.

In order to get a standard hearing aid, you must first get a comprehensive hearing exam from a licensed hearing professional. The audiologist will then select a hearing aid that suits your type and degree of hearing loss, program the device so it meets the exact specification of your hearing loss and provide follow-up care as needed.

In 2017, a federal law was passed designating a new category of hearing aids: over-the-counter. These devices can be purchased without a prescription, though they are only approved for people over the age of 18 who have mild to moderate hearing loss.

The purpose of this legislation was to make hearing aids more accessible. Hearing loss is a growing health problem that affects 48 million Americans. Despite the fact untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of anxiety, depression, social isolation and dementia, only one in five of those who could benefit from a hearing aid actually seeks treatment.

The Downside of OTC Hearing Aids

It may seem enticing to be able to purchase hearing aids without dealing with a “middle man,” but doing so could be costly.

Diagnosing the Cause of Your Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can result from a wide range of causes, from something as benign as impacted earwax to something as serious as a tumor. An audiologist can determine the exact cause of your hearing loss, then either treat the underlying condition or refer you to a specialist. In some cases, hearing can be restored without the use of a hearing aid, prescriptive or otherwise.

Programming to Meet Your Needs

In addition, hearing aids that are prescribed by an audiologist are programmed to meet your exact hearing needs, providing amplification only in frequency ranges that you have trouble with. This programming is incredibly precise thanks to computer programs that audiologists use.

OTC hearing aids, in contrast, are pre-programmed with only a few options, and they cannot be customized. This means that while you may be able to have a conversation in a quiet environment much more easily than without the devices, you could still have problems in complex listening environments like Fedeli’s Steak and Pizza during dinner rush.

Overall, more research is needed to uncover the outcomes of OTC hearing aids.

For more information or to talk with a hearing aid expert, call Topeka ENT today.

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