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

Hearing aids have been approved for over-the-counter (OTC) use. Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 to make hearing aids more accessible for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Several manufacturers already sell them online, and the devices are slated to hit the shelves once the law takes full effect in October 2022. These devices will be sold directly to consumers without an exam or a fitting by an audiologist. With this new option, you may be wondering whether OTC hearing aids are right for you. Here are a few things you need to know about OTC hearing aids.
Where can I get OTC hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are already being sold online. They will soon be available in pharmacies, stores, and doctors’ offices. If you choose to purchase OTC hearing aids, be sure they come with a comprehensive return policy.
How are OTC hearing aids different?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are not exactly like hearing aids you receive from a hearing aid specialist. Here are a few differences:

  • Who fits them: Prescription hearing aids are fit by an audiologist or hearing specialist. OTC hearing aids are self-fit.
  • Diagnosis and testing: A hearing specialist conducts hearing tests and diagnoses using advanced equipment. For OTC hearing aids, you will conduct your own approximated self-test and diagnosis depending on the product purchased.
  • Degree of hearing loss: Prescription hearing aids can be used to treat any level of hearing loss, from mild to severe. OTC hearing aids are only for self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Design: Prescription hearing aids are available in a full range of designs, including discreet custom options. In contrast, OTC hearing aids are available in limited designs with a one-size-fits-most approach.
  • Intended user: People of any age and any medical status can use prescription hearing aids. OTC hearing aids are designed for adults (age 18+) with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Am I a candidate for OTC hearing aids?
You may be a candidate for OTC hearing aids if you have mild to moderate hearing loss. You may have mild hearing loss if you feel that you occasionally miss sounds or have difficulty hearing in loud, noisy environments. OTC hearing aids may be a good solution if the cost of prescription hearing aids is holding you back from treating your hearing loss.
Who is not a candidate for OTC hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are not a good option for children or for those who have severe hearing loss. In addition, you should see a doctor (rather than purchase OTC hearing aids) if you experience sudden hearing loss, a sudden plunge in your hearing (even if it improves), a big difference in the hearing between one ear and the other, or tinnitus in only one ear. These may be signs of medical problems.
Will I be satisfied with OTC hearing aids?
A recent study found that users of “premium” prescription hearing aids showed the greatest satisfaction with their devices. One of the greatest factors study participants cited was comfort, specifically how the hearing aids processed background noise and how well they could hear speech in a group setting.
That being said, you don’t know whether you’ll be satisfied with OTC hearing aids until you try them. If you decide to try out OTC hearing aids, you may also want to see a hearing aid specialist and consider prescription hearing aids as well.
For more information about the pros and cons of OTC hearing aids, please contact our office today.

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Where is the Best Place to Get Hearing Aids?

You may have heard that hearing aids will soon be available over-the-counter at retailers like Walgreens and CVS. With hearing aids also available from a hearing care professional like an audiologist, at big box stores, and from online-only retailers, you have options when it comes to where you get your hearing aids. So, where is the best place to get hearing aids?
Hearing aids have changed a lot in the last 20 years, but the answer to this question has not. Despite the availability of new options for accessing hearing aids (which will enable more people who need hearing aids to get them—great news!), the best place to get hearing aids is from a hearing care professional. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Accurate solutions tailored to your needs.
    You are unique, and so is your hearing. You can think of it like your sense of taste; you don’t like all the same foods as everyone else. Your hearing loss is nuanced, unique, and complicated. For example, you may have hearing loss in one or both ears, and even if both ears are affected, the loss may not be the same in both. Other factors to consider when it comes to hearing loss include your hearing thresholds, which frequencies you struggle to hear, and more.
    Your hearing aid professional can make certain that your hearing aids are tailored to your personal hearing needs. In addition, your hearing professional can consider factors that would not come into play in an OTC environment, such as the types of listening environments you frequent, whether you are more active or relaxed, how tech savvy you are, whether you have dexterity issues, what you prefer when it comes to style and features, and much more.
    Your hearing aids should be unique to you. Choosing OTC or big-box hearing aid solutions does not give you the same personalized care as seeing a hearing aid professional. Hearing professionals can fit, program, and support your hearing aid in a way that is tailored to your specific needs. This is the best way to ensure reliable results and the benefits you need.
  2. Long-term care to support your investment.
    Let’s face it: hearing aids aren’t cheap. No matter where you purchase your hearing aids, they are a financial investment. Hearing aids are also an investment in better communication, your connection to other people, improved health and happiness, and better quality of life.
    The best way to make the most of your investment is to have your hearing aids fit, programmed, and supported long-term by a hearing aid professional. Your hearing professional will provide expert consultation, personalized fitting, and ongoing care. You deserve the best support when it comes to an investment this important.
  3. Expert services for high-tech devices.
    Today’s hearing aids are sophisticated devices. While a range of features and options are available, high-tech hearing aids can connect to your smartphone, computer, or TV, filter sounds in noisy environments, and much more. In addition, they are much smaller and lighter than they used to be!
    With such high-tech options available, you need an expert who knows how to make the most of every feature—and who can tell which features will work best for you. A hearing care professional has the knowledge and experience needed to help you achieve optimal benefits from your advanced hearing aids.

The answer is clear: the best place to get hearing aids is from a hearing aid professional. To learn more about hearing aids and their benefits, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today.