Understanding Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

What are Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids?

There is a new category of hearing aids on the market called over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are available in the same way that over the counter medications are, in that they do not require a prescription to purchase. Let’s examine the process of diagnosing hearing loss as well as the treatment options available to better understand the appropriate conditions for OTC hearing aids.

Determine Whether You May Benefit from Hearing Aids

An important step in deciding whether hearing aids are appropriate for you is to first determine what type of hearing loss you are experiencing. Because there are three main types of hearing loss and not all of them require hearing aids to treat, seeing a hearing health provider is a good first step.

When you first see a hearing health provider they will review your past medical history, signs and symptoms you are experiencing, and then likely perform a hearing test. All three pieces of this evaluation are important because they help determine the appropriate treatment. To better understand, we will look at the three primary types of hearing loss.

Doctor smiling with patient

Occurs in the inner ear and is generally considered permanent. It can be caused by age, noise exposure, medications, and some diseases and disorders. It can be either gradual or sudden and occur in one or both ears. The many possible causes is why reviewing past medical history is so important. Hearing loss caused by medications may be reversible with changes to the dose.

Doctor smiling with patient

Hearing Loss Treatment Options

Now that you have seen a hearing health provider who has determined the type and cause of your hearing loss, you can discuss possible treatment options. Let’s look more closely at the differences between OTC hearing aids versus hearing aids that require a prescription.

OTC hearing aids work by amplifying all sound at the same level. They are only recommended to adults experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss. However the main issue with this kind of generalized sound amplification is that most people experiencing hearing loss do not lose volume of all frequencies. Age related hearing loss, a type of sensorineural hearing loss, is most commonly associated with higher frequency hearing loss. This means that the person with age related hearing loss may hear other frequencies within the normal range, making a single amplification of all sound unnecessary and possibly even bothersome.

In comparison, prescription hearing aids use the results from your hearing test, or audiogram, to amplify sounds based your specific frequency and volume needs.

Another point of comparison is that OTC hearing aids are typically made in a sort of “one size fits all” model. Ears and ear canals are all shaped differently, so this could make OTC uncomfortable for some. Prescription hearing aids are made to fit your ears uniquely by using molds to make each hearing aid.

Doctor with Patient

Who are OTC hearing aids for?

With these differences in mind, how do you decide which type of hearing aid is right for you? The best course of action is to start by discussing your options with your hearing health professional. If your hearing is mild and generalized enough and OTC hearing aids fit your ears comfortably, then OTC hearing aids may be for you.

However if you are experiencing hearing loss that effects different frequencies, usually described by people saying “I can hear, I just can’t understand”, than prescription hearing aids that can address those variations will likely better suit your needs.

Ultimately, the decision between prescription and OTC hearing aids is one that should be made in a consultation with your hearing health provider who will better understand your unique hearing needs.

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John Cuomo
John Cuomo
2022-09-02
Dr. Leigh Smith is a very knowledgeable Audiologist with a nice easy going personality. I was amazed at the complexity of the audio hearing program. Being an engineer, I can appreciate the technical aspects of the program.
S MH
S MH
2022-08-18
Leigh is very through and answered all of my questions. Everyone there is very helpful and nice.
fran mikutis
fran mikutis
2022-08-18
I experienced a very favorable appointment. Couldn't be more pleased with the individual time spent. Thank you.
george baxter
george baxter
2022-08-07
I t was wonderful to meet with Dr Leigh Smith and meet Yvette My hearing aids are much clearer , as Dr Leigh spent time with meAlways a pleasure, she is caring effecient , always has a smile
Donna Beatty
Donna Beatty
2022-08-05
I am totally satisfied with the warm professionalism Dr Smith provided- highly recommend her expertise!
Anthony Locacio
Anthony Locacio
2022-07-21
Professional, courteous and patient explaining the process and results. Thank you Dr. Smith!
jeff szulinski
jeff szulinski
2022-07-13
Dr. Smith was awesome.explained everything possible to me .told me many things I did not know a super pleasant Woman. Kudos to her. 5stars isn’t enough.Deserves more. THANKYOU Dr.Smith.
Mary Ensor
Mary Ensor
2022-06-27
Very thorough and complete testing. Explained and very honest according to what I needed
Lorraine Palisi
Lorraine Palisi
2022-06-26
My 92yr old mom was referred to Dr Smith due to hearing loss even though she has hearing aides. Dr Smith treated my mom like her own family and took such wonderful care of her. She actually retested mom's hearing and thankfully reprogrammed her hearing aides as well. The hearing aides were not programmed where they should be leaving mom's hearing at 40%. Not good enough so with some tweeking and adjustments my mom's face lit up when she could actually hear our conversation. We were both so so happy that Dr Smith was able to treat mom from a medical standpoint instead of just audiology side. Again Dr Smith thank you with all of my heart.
John Luebbe
John Luebbe
2022-06-23
Great Doctor. Very knowledgeable.

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