Can You Buy Hearing Aids Over the Counter? 

February 22, 2024 0

Imagine being able to walk into a pharmacy and buy hearing aids the same way you buy a bottle of aspirin or cold medicine. As of October 2022, this is now a reality for adults over the age of 18. Since their introduction, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids have sparked curiosity, questions, and some confusion among many people. In this blog, we address common questions about over-the-counter hearing aids, to help you make the most informed decisions about your hearing health. 

From understanding their functionality to exploring their benefits and limitations, read on to learn more. 

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

Over-the-counter hearing aids are personal sound amplification products that you can buy in-store or online without a prescription. Anyone over the age of 18 can purchase these devices. They are designed to amplify sounds and assist people with self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. 

How Much Do OTC Hearing Aids Cost? 

According to ASHA, the average cost of OTC hearing aids is about $1,500 per pair, but you can also find some simpler models for as low as $250.   

OTC hearing aids are intended to be accessible and affordable, with simple design and straightforward features like sound amplification. These devices also come with basic settings with limited adjustability, which helps keep their prices lower.  

Are OTC Hearing Aids Any Good? 

The effectiveness of OTC hearing aids can vary depending on factors such as the degree, type, and cause of hearing loss, as well as how well it fits and functions for the user. Some people with self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss may find that OTC hearing aids meet their needs adequately. 

However, due to FDA regulations, all over-the-counter hearing devices have mandatory volume control. These volume limits may not meet the needs of people with more significant levels of hearing loss, or those with unique hearing needs.

How Do You Know What Degree of Hearing Loss You Have?

The only way to determine the level, type, and cause of your hearing loss is through a professional hearing exam from a specialist. These comprehensive exams involve a series of simple and non-invasive tests designed to assess different aspects of hearing health. The results of these tests provide valuable insight into the nature and extent of your hearing loss and help identify the best treatment option for your specific needs.

Do OTC Hearing Aids Help with Background Noise?

Many OTC hearing aids are not designed to be used in loud environments, especially spaces with a lot of background noise. Over-the-counter hearing aids do not offer the level of customization needed to address individual hearing needs in noisy environments.  

In loud spaces, such as crowded restaurants or busy streets, background noise can overwhelm the microphone and speaker in OTC hearing aids. This can drown out the sound of one specific person speaking and often cause disruptive feedback loops as well. 

Are OTC Hearing Aids One Size Fits All? 

OTC hearing devices are one size fits most with minimal customization for physical or sound comfort. These devices are designed to be used right out of the box and typically come in standard sizes and styles, such as behind-the-ear (BTE) and in-the-ear (ITE). However, because OTC hearing aids are not custom-fit or tailored to individual needs, they may not fit comfortably in certain ear shapes or perform adequately.  

How Do I Find the Best OTC Hearing Aid for Me?

Over the counter OTC hearing aid box on shelf

Without a professional hearing exam or guidance from a specialist, finding the best OTC hearing aid for your needs requires extensive research, and likely some trial and error. If you are considering buying OTC hearing aids, it’s important to ensure that the ones you choose are registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA registration indicates that the device meets certain safety and effectiveness standards. 

Other considerations that may help you find the right OTC hearing aid include:  

  • Your level of hearing loss  
  • Your budget  
  • Style preference  
  • Brands and model reviews  
  • Must-have features and technologies 
  • Store return policies (in case they don’t work for you)  
  • Manufacturer warranties (in case they break) 

Signs OTC Hearing Aids May Not Be Good for You  

OTC devices create an avenue for more convenient and accessible care for some people, but they may not be suitable for everyone. This is especially true for anyone with certain medical conditions. 

Hearing loss is complex, and in some cases, it can be caused by underlying medical conditions such as ear infections, impacted earwax, or even more serious issues like tumors. The absence of a professional exam may lead to other potential health issues going untreated and potential complications.  

OTC hearing aids may not be a good option if any of the following apply to you:  

  • Ear malformation  
  • Fluid or blood in the ear  
  • Tinnitus symptoms (especially if only in one ear)  
  • Ear pain or discomfort  
  • Excessive earwax  
  • Feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear  
  • Sudden changes in hearing
  • Dizziness or vertigo  

It’s essential to recognize the limitations of over-the-counter hearing devices and consult with a specialist to determine the most appropriate solution for your needs. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, complex hearing issues, or medical concerns related to your hearing, a professional exam and prescription hearing aids may be necessary. 

Schedule Hearing Screening at an Audibel Clinic Near You 

Making informed decisions about your hearing health is crucial for maintaining your quality of life. Over-the-counter hearing aids can be a convenient and affordable option for some people with mild to moderate hearing loss but are not suitable for everyone. If you’re ready to take the next step towards better hearing, our hearing care specialists are here to help.  

From comprehensive hearing exams to personalized hearing loss care, we’re here to support you through every step of your journey to rediscovering the joy of hearing. Find an Audibel hearing clinic near you today to schedule a hearing screening. 

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