Everything You Need to Know About Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Have you avoided hearing aids because of the intimidating process (multiple appointments for choosing and adjusting the device) and cost (often several thousand dollars)? Good news.

Over-the-counter hearing aids are new. Buying them no longer requires a prescription or hearing professional visit. Find OTC hearing aids online.

New prescription hearing aids cost $1,000 to over $6,000, while OTC ones cost $200 to $1,000. Prices are fair. For 90% of mild-to-moderate hearing loss sufferers, OTC aids may help.

Research suggests that hearing aids improve quality of life and reduce loneliness for hearing-impaired people. A recent study suggests that aids may reduce dementia risk.

OTC devices may work for you—how? Can they work like pills? Choosing the best otc hearing aids without professional help? Know this.

OTC Hearing Aid Development

Unregulated online or mail-order hearing devices had few effectiveness safeguards. A 2017 law clarified OTC hearing aid rules to make them more affordable and accessible. Fall 2022 rules require non-prescription hearing aids to be safe and effective. Kids cannot buy them.

To prevent hearing loss, OTC aids must meet technical requirements like sound amplification limits. However, these restrictions make OTC aids unsuitable for severe hearing loss. Quiet rooms, loud music, and power tools can make speech difficult. OTC hearing aids treat mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Noise, groups, and phone calls make speech difficult to hear.

OTC vs. Prescription Hearing Aids

OTC and prescription hearing aids work similarly. Both use tiny microphones to amplify sounds and send them to your ear via speaker. Using similar technology.

How OTC and traditional aids are obtained and set up is a major difference.

Audiologists, otolaryngologists, and hearing aid specialists prescribe hearing aids. Professionals test your hearing and recommend a hearing aid. The device is programmed to your hearing profile and adjusted during a “fitting”.

OTC hearing aids don’t need a doctor’s visit or test. You can set up.

Selecting a Hearing Aid

Considering the above differences, you should carefully choose prescription or OTC hearing aids. These steps help.

Dismiss other issues.

Injury, earwax buildup, and infections can cause hearing loss. Hearing aids won’t help, but other therapies may. Consult a doctor if you have blood, pus, or fluid in your ears, ear pain, dizziness, or sudden hearing changes. Online Consumer Ear Disease Risk Assessment can determine if such issues are to blame.

Check your hearing.

Audiologist tests are best for hearing evaluation, say experts. This measures hearing loss accurately, says Northwestern University Auditory Research Lab postdoctoral scholar Jasleen Singh, PhD. If your hearing loss is severe, OTC aids may not work.

If you work in a classroom full of loud kids, Sumit Dhar, PhD, a Northwestern University communication sciences and disorders professor, advises seeking professional help even with milder hearing loss.

This year, Medicare will cover general hearing tests without a referral and most private medical insurance covers in-person hearing tests.

Home hearing tests can be done with a computer or smartphone. Tone-based testing apps play audio tones at decreasing volumes, and digits-in-noise or speech-in-noise tests identify spoken numbers or words.

Consider DIY ease.

At the University of Colorado Hospital, Vinaya Manchaiah advises considering self-selected OTC aids. Despite excellent phone or online support from some companies, you must choose a device, set its settings, and program it. You must also learn to install, clean, and repair it. When buying prescription Rechargeable Hearing Aids, an audiologist, doctor, or licensed dispenser assists.

Choosing an OTC Hearing Aid

Can it be customized?

Preset and self-fitting OTC hearing aids exist. Self-fitting aids cost more than presets but are FDA-approved, so they work. OTC self-fitting aids are highly customizable.

Smartphone apps help you customize a self-fitting hearing aid during setup. These apps determine amplification needs and which frequencies you have trouble hearing.

Nick Reed, AuD, an assistant professor of audiology at the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, thinks self-fitting hearing aids are better than preset ones because they can be finer tuned.

Some users may have trouble self-fitting. People may not have self-fitting aids. Check before buying Jabra’s Enhance Plus self-fitting hearing aids only work with Apple devices.

For mild-to-moderate hearing loss, OTC preset aids have several programs. Many users may be happy.Preset devices fit 68% of older adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

Your best shape?

As with prescription hearing aids, OTC devices are in-ear or behind-ear. Smaller in-ear aids fit completely inside the ear canal. Behind-the-ear aids have a case with hardware and a canal or earbud receiver.

One shape better? Laura Coco, AuD, PhD, an assistant professor in San Diego State University’s School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, recommends a hearing aid you’ll enjoy wearing. According to her, behind-the-ear styles reduce background noise better.

Anna Jilla, AuD, PhD, an assistant professor of audiology at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, says smaller devices are harder to manipulate and clean and may have less wireless audio streaming capacity.

Quality of customer service?

An audiologist can help you set up and fix your hearing aid. Support may matter.Audiologist- and OTC-dispensed hearing aids had similar benefits, but respondents were happier with their devices.

If people who could benefit from OTC hearing aids didn’t use them due to insufficient assistance. “Not because the device isn’t good—it meets FDA guidelines, it’s a good quality device,” says. “But all the extra support somebody needs in adjusting to hearing aids that normally could be provided through an audiologist isn’t available.”

It’s important to know what support comes with the hearing aid you’re buying, including what days and hours, for how long, and from what experts. Most companies have phone support, but they may not be hearing aid experts. Others match you with licensed hearing care professionals by phone or in-store.

How are returns handled?

You need time to adjust to and test hearing aids. Try your OTC hearing aid for a month before returning it if it doesn’t work. Check warranties when shopping.