We’ve all gotten very good at researching information online these days, so it makes sense that when the time comes to buy hearing aids or upgrade them, we’d run straight to the search box.

Audiologists have expressed many concerns lately about these upcoming over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, with many expecting the FDA will finally release their guidance on the selling of them in early November.

In this post, I’ll outline some of the pros and cons of buying and wearing an OTC hearing aid.

What Is An OTC Device?

An OTC hearing aid is a wearable hearing aid that you will be able to buy “over the counter” without the involvement of a medical professional or audiologist, and you fit it yourself rather than have a hearing specialist fit it for you.

These devices are one step up from PSAPs (personal sound amplification products), which are available now.

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Why People Might Buy An OTC Hearing Aid

Someone might buy an OTC hearing aid to fix the hearing loss they’ve noticed “on the cheap.” They are of the mindset that all they need is to turn up the volume and everything gets back to normal, but there’s a lot more that goes into effective hearing treatment than a volume button.

But OTC hearing aids likely won’t be cheap at an expected price of about $800. That’s a lot for a product with no counseling or medical care to support it.

Others might buy one because buying anything online is easy, and the product is delivered straight to your door. You don’t have to see anyone or talk to anyone about your perceived “weakness” at all. You might even be able to hide the device from your friends and family so they won’t think you’re old for having one.

For a small pocket of people with a near-normal hearing loss, an OTC hearing aid can certainly help, but for everyone else, there are quite a few risks involved.

ASHA commissioned a poll of 2,030 adults in the US this September to assess public opinion about OTC hearing aids. In the report:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (87%) say that it would be important to have a diagnosis from a trained medical professional before buying any kind of hearing aid.
  • More than eight in 10 (83%) say that it would be extremely or very important to know which technology options would be most appropriate for their hearing loss before buying a hearing aid.
  • More than eight in 10 (84%) say that it is important to know the extent of professional support services that will be available before purchasing any type of hearing aid.
  • A medical professional’s recommendation is the leading factor that would influence adults’ purchasing decisions on an OTC hearing aid (reported by 42%), with cost being a distant second (18%).
  • Almost half (48%) are not confident they could program their own hearing aid.
  • 58% are unsure whether OTCs are intended only for those with a mild to moderate hearing loss.

We agree, and we think it’s wise to always have an audiologist oversee the wearing and setting of any hearing device.

8 Risks Of Wearing An OTC Device

  1. The consumer has to figure out which OTC hearing aid is the best one for their unique hearing loss and lifestyle.
  2. The consumer has to adjust the settings to their hearing levels of pitch, tone, and volume.
  3. The wearer might not have a hearing loss at all because it’s caused by earwax buildup or an undiagnosed medical issue an audiologist would have caught, wasting that $800.
  4. There is no fitting appointment, so there is no way to fit it to the wearer’s exact ear shape.
  5. It only has basic features and is far less effective than a hearing aid, providing minimal benefits.
  6. There is no ongoing customer support for the product or hearing care.
  7. It won’t treat profound hearing loss.
  8. It might augment the wrong sounds, causing further hearing damage.

At Pacific Hearing, Inc., we are here to be your experts on every hearing device available, including OTC hearing aids.

The one thing we can’t emphasize strongly enough is that the best hearing treatment must include an expert hearing evaluation and device setting by an audiologist to ensure that the treatment fits the hearing need.

Are Hearing Aids Better Than OTC Devices?

Hearing aids are unquestionably better than OTC hearing aids. They are high-tech devices that address almost every facet of a person’s hearing needs. I’m amazed at how advanced they are compared to the hearing aids of yesteryear, and they are changing lives for the better daily – at home and at work.

Pacific Hearing, Inc. can fit you with the best hearing aid for your hearing needs and lifestyle once we have the results of your hearing assessment. Then, over the next few years, we can adjust the hearing aid for maximal performance based on any change in hearing loss.

Confused About Where To Turn For Help?

At Pacific Hearing, Inc., we want you to have full transparency of your hearing healthcare before putting your money in OTC devices.

The best first step in ensuring you receive the best hearing solution for you is to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment by a trained doctor of audiology.

Book your hearing assessment today for yourself or a loved one. We’ll do a full, professional assessment of every aspect of your hearing health and choose the necessary treatment – something you can never get with an OTC hearing aid purchase.

We look forward to helping you optimize your hearing safely today and for the long term.

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Gregory Frazer, PhD, AuD, CCC-A, ABA, NBC-HIS

Dr. Gregory Frazer entered private practice Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, which had 23 offices and was one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. Dr. Frazer is a well-known clinician and teacher and was the first audiologist to obtain dual doctorates in Audiology, both a PhD. in Audiology as well as the new Clinical Doctorate of Audiology, the AuD. He is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Audiology, and the National Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Dr. Frazer specializes in the evaluation and treatment of vertigo, dizziness, and hearing and balance disorders. Dr. Frazer is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults. He is semi-fluent in Spanish and Sign Language.