What Are the Major Differences between OTCs and Prescription Hearing Aids?

Getting the help you need is more complicated than just purchasing an over-the-counter device

What Are the Major Differences between OTCs and Prescription Hearing Aids?

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

To the untrained ear, these two devices, OTCs and prescription hearing aids, may seem like they’re cut from the same cloth. We’re here to help you make the distinction between the two so you can get the help you need.

We know how important hearing is to our everyday lives and that’s why none of us can afford to take it lightly. That’s why we make it our duty to inform and educate as many people as we can.

Neglected or improperly diagnosed hearing loss can lead to more severe health issues than just loss of hearing. We want to prevent the worst-case scenarios by helping you understand all the assistance that’s available to you.

Here Are the Facts

Initially, prescription hearing aids and OTCs may sound alike. One may think that “a hearing aid is just a hearing aid.” But the differences between the two products are quite significant.

Let’s use eyeglasses as an example to further understand these two different hearing devices. Reading glasses, as they are commonly called, are available in pharmacies, grocery stores, and many other places. You have options available among many styles to choose from based on your preference and preferred level of investment.

While these glasses are excellent for those who only need magnification in certain situations, there comes a time when vision loss progresses and OTC/reading glasses are no longer strong enough.

Prescription hearing aids will have a greater variety of features and be more customized to your needs than OTCs.

This means more capacity to reach significant degrees of hearing loss than the OTC can. It also means greater degrees of noise reduction assistance and more innovative features that allow the hearing aid to adjust based on the demands of the environment automatically.

Is It Required to Visit an Audiologist before Getting OTCs?

The main reason to see an audiologist before purchasing an OTC is to save you money over the long term. An audiologist will rule out whether your hearing difficulties are simply due to earwax or fluid behind the ear, which are both easily treatable.

Once you have completed a hearing evaluation, your audiologist will help you pick an OTC that works with your individual needs, and you’ll have accurate hearing test results to apply to any OTC options available. 


Hearing Exams Are a Necessary First Step

OTC devices do not require a hearing test to buy. However, we strongly recommend you do so anyway. We want to rule out anything that’s more threatening health-wise.

A hearing test will be able to identify such conditions as acoustic neuroma, which is a space-occupying growth in the ear that can cause a hearing loss on one side. It’s a condition that no OTC will be able to help with.

From there, your provider should be able to help you answer the question “Do I need a prescription?” versus “Could I get by right now with OTCs and then, later on, switch to prescription devices?”

For any residents of Los Angeles considering either option, start with the test. If you’re seeing someone reputable, they’ll be able to tell you which option is best for you and be truthful about that because it’s so important.

How to Help a Loved One Who May Be Considering OTCs

For anyone considering hearing aids and who is unsure of where to start, the best option is to visit our office here in LA. 

A hearing evaluation is the first step in procuring hearing devices. We ensure the test is performed accurately so the results are trustworthy. Once your hearing has been evaluated, you’ll have your prescription and know if OTC hearing aids can meet your needs or if prescription hearing aids would be better suited. 

If you’re like many of our patients who are gathering information for the first time, you may be thinking that OTC hearing aids are the best route for you simply based on the investment aspect alone. Many who visit our office are surprised that we offer prescription hearing aids at the same level of investment as OTC hearing devices. 

By being fit at a local provider’s office, you now have an in-person resource to go to if you have questions throughout your hearing journey. 

Please contact us if you have any further questions about your or your loved one’s hearing. We are here to help.

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Carissa Bennett, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Carissa Bennett graduated with honors from UC Santa Barbara in Speech and Hearing Science in 1978, obtained a Masters in Audiology from the University of Washington in 1981, and an AuD in Audiology from the Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2003. She was an Audiologist at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles from 1981-1986, with an emphasis on medical-legal audiology with Aram Glorig, MD, and conducted hearing aid research with James Sheehy, MD. She entered private practice in 1986 with Dr. Gregory Frazer and co-owned and operated Hearing Care Associates. Dr. Bennett is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults, and specializes in diagnostic audiological evaluations. Dr. Bennett is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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