Everything You Need to Know about Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

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Hearing aids have been approved for over-the-counter (OTC) use. Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 to make hearing aids more accessible for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Several manufacturers already sell them online, and the devices are slated to hit the shelves once the law takes full effect in October 2022. These devices will be sold directly to consumers without an exam or a fitting by an audiologist. With this new option, you may be wondering whether OTC hearing aids are right for you. Here are a few things you need to know about OTC hearing aids.
Where can I get OTC hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are already being sold online. They will soon be available in pharmacies, stores, and doctors’ offices. If you choose to purchase OTC hearing aids, be sure they come with a comprehensive return policy.
How are OTC hearing aids different?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are not exactly like hearing aids you receive from a hearing aid specialist. Here are a few differences:

  • Who fits them: Prescription hearing aids are fit by an audiologist or hearing specialist. OTC hearing aids are self-fit.
  • Diagnosis and testing: A hearing specialist conducts hearing tests and diagnoses using advanced equipment. For OTC hearing aids, you will conduct your own approximated self-test and diagnosis depending on the product purchased.
  • Degree of hearing loss: Prescription hearing aids can be used to treat any level of hearing loss, from mild to severe. OTC hearing aids are only for self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Design: Prescription hearing aids are available in a full range of designs, including discreet custom options. In contrast, OTC hearing aids are available in limited designs with a one-size-fits-most approach.
  • Intended user: People of any age and any medical status can use prescription hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are designed for adults (age 18+) with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Am I a candidate for OTC hearing aids?
You may be a candidate for OTC hearing aids if you have mild to moderate hearing loss. You may have mild hearing loss if you feel that you occasionally miss sounds or have difficulty hearing in loud, noisy environments. OTC hearing aids may be a good solution if the cost of prescription hearing aids is holding you back from treating your hearing loss.
Who is not a candidate for OTC hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are not a good option for children or for those who have severe hearing loss. In addition, you should see a doctor (rather than purchase OTC hearing aids) if you experience sudden hearing loss, a sudden plunge in your hearing (even if it improves), a big difference in the hearing between one ear and the other, or tinnitus in only one ear. These may be signs of medical problems.
Will I be satisfied with OTC hearing aids?
A recent study found that users of “premium” prescription hearing aids showed the greatest satisfaction with their devices. One of the greatest factors study participants cited was comfort, specifically how the hearing aids processed background noise and how well they could hear speech in a group setting.
That being said, you don’t know whether you’ll be satisfied with OTC hearing aids until you try them. If you decide to try out OTC hearing aids, you may also want to see a hearing aid specialist and consider prescription hearing aids as well.
For more information about the pros and cons of OTC hearing aids, please contact our office today.

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