Over-the-counter Hearing Aids

Prescription hearing aids have long been the top choice to help a person with hearing loss enjoy an overall improvement in hearing health. Some people tend to forego getting hearing aids mainly because of the cost. Looking at the bigger picture, prescription hearing aids do cost more than over-the-counter hearing aids, but if you scrutinize certain factors, you can actually see that prescription hearing aids are of a different tier from OTC hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids can be purchased without having to see an audiologist or other specialist in hearing healthcare. Adults with mild to severe hearing loss may benefit from these gadgets.

Adults 18 and older with mild-to-moderate hearing loss are covered by the Food and Drug Administration’s most recent decision regarding over-the-counter hearing aids. Keep in mind that children or individuals with severe to profound hearing loss will still need to use prescribed hearing aids. 

To say that there are so many over-the-counter hearing aids in the market would be an understatement. This is actually a challenge for consumers because since OTC hearing aids are highly accessible, it’s easy to be hooked to its attractive price point. Now the question is, how sure are you that the device that you purchased can address your hearing loss?

Over-the-counter Hearing Aids Latest FDA Ruling

In the latest survey of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, one in eight people in the United States aged 12 years or beyond has hearing loss in both ears. This data was based on standard hearing examinations. About 2 percent of people aged 45 to 54 have severe or disabling hearing loss. The prevalence of hearing loss increases to 8.5 percent for individuals aged 55 to 64.

In response to public pressure and to enhance the efficiency and safety of over-the-counter hearing aids, the final rule of the FDA includes significant modifications from the proposed rule, including lowering the maximum amplification output of over-the-counter hearing aids. All OTC hearing aids must have the required packaging and labeling and user-adjustable volume control. 

With the dawn of the availability of OTC hearing aids, many are hoping that this will make hearing devices more accessible to people from all walks of life. Additionally, hearing health advocates are expecting that this will be a turning point for society to eliminate the stigma of using hearing aids – specifically in terms of ageism- and change the way people see hearing aids.

To know more about FDA’s latest ruling on over-the-counter hearing aids, head on over to their website.

Who Is a Suitable Candidate for Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?

As previously stated, only individuals aged 18 and older, with mild-to-moderate hearing loss are eligible for OTC hearing aids.

To assess their amount of hearing loss and if they qualify for this kind of hearing aid, a hearing test should be performed by an audiologist. Ironically, determining one’s degree of hearing loss is not a priority for consumers who are planning to get OTC hearing aids. Since almost anyone can get hearing aids without getting a prescription, getting a hearing test would not be a priority for some.

Whether you get an OTC hearing aid or a prescription hearing aid, getting a hearing test prior to purchasing is highly important. Proper device fitting and real ear measurement by an audiologist are key elements to ensure hearing aid success.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids and PSAPs

PSAPs, or personal sound amplification products, are amplifiers that can be purchased over the counter without a prescription or audiology evaluation. PSAPs are suitable for individuals without hearing loss. PSAPs and over-the-counter hearing aids are sometimes mistaken to function similarly. Making a more informed choice will be easier for you if you are aware of the differences between the two.

If in doubt, you can always consult with an audiologist before purchasing an over-the-counter hearing aid or PSAP.

Can PSAPs help you hear better?

While PSAPs have been recently declared by The National Academy of Sciences and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology as devices that can help certain individuals with mild hearing loss, the Food and Drug Administration maintains its restrictions on the marketing of PSAPs as hearing aids. The distribution and sale of PSAPs are not as well-regulated as prescription hearing aids.

We strongly advise that you receive a hearing test and professional guidance from an audiologist before deciding to buy or use a PSAP or similar gadget to address loss.

Our take on over-the-counter hearing aids

Prescription hearing aids, which can only be obtained from hearing healthcare experts including audiologists, hearing aid specialists, dispensers, and otolaryngologists, may be more expensive than over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. 

Prescription hearing aids, which can only be obtained from hearing healthcare experts including audiologists, hearing aid specialists, dispensers, and otolaryngologists, may be more expensive than over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids (ear, nose, and throat doctors). Typically, a hearing healthcare specialist such as an audiologist will fit you for a hearing aid, adjust it to meet your hearing loss, perform real ear measurements, and offer extra services with follow-up care, modifications, servicing, and maintenance.

If you experience any difficulties hearing loud sounds or discussions (even in quiet environments), speak with an audiologist. These are signs that your hearing loss might be more severe and could indicate that over-the-counter hearing aids might not work for you. If you require a prescription hearing aid or another device to help with your hearing, an audiologist or other hearing healthcare specialist can assist you in making that decision.

Although it is not necessary, we strongly suggest getting a hearing test prior to buying over-the-counter hearing aids. Finding out if an over-the-counter hearing aid can assist you with your hearing loss is the main benefit of doing this. Remember that no hearing loss is the same. During a visit to the office, audiologists can also offer assistance with using over-the-counter hearing aids.

Whether you opt for an over-the-counter hearing aid or decide to get a prescription hearing aid, you should ensure that you get a hearing test so you can have a baseline of your hearing loss. From there, we suggest that you consult with an audiologist so as to avoid wasting time and money in buying and using a device that would end up just being kept in a drawer because it is not giving you the hearing amplification that you need.

What are the benefits of working with an audiologist?

When you work with an audiologist, you are assured that you’re going to get an accurate and comprehensive hearing loss evaluation and diagnosis. Many people underestimate their hearing loss which is not a good thing because when they finally decide to get fitted with hearing aids, they are shocked to know how much sound and amplification they are missing. When you consult with an audiologist, you will know where you stand with your hearing loss.

Proper and accurate hearing aid fitting is also a huge lacking component of over-the-counter hearing aids. Buying OTC hearing aids is not like buying a pair of shoes that you can easily ease into in the next few days or weeks. It entails proper fitting, real ear measurement, and a fair amount of adjustment period. Audiologists can offer guidance and support from the very first time you wear your hearing aids. The settings and programming of a hearing aid can make a huge difference in one’s listening experience. No matter how expensive or affordable a hearing aid may be, if it’s not programmed according to the wearer’s hearing loss, the device will not be able to provide optimum results.

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