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OTC Hearing Aids

An Audiologist Explains What The FDA Ruling for Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Means for You

Wow! It’s happening! Hearing aids are now approved for over-the-counter (OTC) sales. The years-long battle has finally come to an end, with the FDA ruling in favor of providing OTC hearing aids as early as October of 2022. This news is huge and should be looked at with full consideration of its implications.

Yes, OTC hearing aids present a great opportunity to get accessibility and affordability for many. But, before setting off fireworks, we need to remember that just making things louder doesn’t solve all hearing problems. In this post, we’ll discuss how we hear, the pros and cons of OTC hearing aids, and our recommendations for making the best out of this momentous announcement.

How we hear

For starters, the way we hear is actually of great importance. Sure, the ears capture and organize sounds, and sends them to your auditory nerve, but from that point on, there’s a lot more to it that has nothing to do with the ears, but with the brain. The signal travels from the ear to the brainstem working through thousands of crisscrossing signals allowing you to hear. The brain plays a huge part in your ability to hear, which is why amplifying sounds with a hearing aid may not always be the solution.

Simply put, we hear with our brains, not with our ears.

Pros and Cons of OTC Hearing Aids

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, over 35 million Americans have hearing loss in both ears based on standard hearing exams. That’s a lot of people, which is why providing affordable and easy access to hearing aids is critical for hearing health. But before you hit the stores, consider the pros and cons of these newly approved OTC hearing aids.

PROS CONS
  • Low cost
  • Easy access with no prescription needed
  • Only available for people 18 years or older
  • Only appropriate for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • One-size-fits-all design with very little customization
  • OTC retailers do not offer long-term care for regular cleaning and checkups
  • Purchasing OTC hearing aids doesn’t require any formal screening, which means there’s a higher risk of a hearing disorder going undiagnosed
  • The hearing aid wearer is responsible for self-diagnosing necessary hearing levels
  • There is no use of best practices for hearing aid fitting or follow-up requirements

The important thing to remember is that when it comes to convenience and lower cost, there is almost always a compromise being made. When getting fitted for a hearing aid by an OTC retailer, they will most likely not be a doctor, so they won’t have the medical knowledge needed in case you have any problems down the line. And considering how vital hearing is to your cognitive function, that can be a little risky.

The Best Way to Get an OTC Hearing Aid

If you believe OTC hearing aids are right for you, that’s great!! But seeing as hearing health is so vital to your overall well-being, we encourage you to have a full evaluation with an audiologist to ensure you’re not missing anything. An audiologist will help rule out any other conditions that could be impacting you, saving you money in the long run.

After the hearing tests are performed, your audiologist will go over the results with you to ensure you have a full picture of your hearing health, and if all you need are hearing aids, you’ll have the blessing of a medical professional to get an option that’s not only good for your ears but your wallet too! Of course, if the results show that your needs fall beyond that which an OTC hearing aid can do, the audiologist will be able to help with that too. Seeing an audiologist is a win-win and means you will always be working in favor of doing what’s best for your hearing health.

Aside from performing hearing tests to ensure hearing aids are what you need to address your hearing difficulty, before getting OTC hearing aids you’ll want to consult with a medical provider if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Any ear deformities
  • Fluid, pus, or blood coming from the ear
  • Hearing loss or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) that occurs in only one ear or that is noticeably different in one ear
  • Pain or discomfort in the ear
  • A history of excessive earwax or feeling that there is something in the ear
  • Sudden, worsening, or fluctuating hearing loss
  • Vertigo or severe dizziness

Who Are OTC Hearing Aids For?

OTC hearing aids are perfect for adults who need simple amplification to help with their hearing. It’s a great way to get the help they need in a simple and affordable way.

But for others, increasing the sound in the ear could actually cause more problems. For example, if you suffer from cookie bite hearing loss, this means you can hear normally in some frequencies, but not in all. An OTC hearing aid would make all sounds/frequencies louder, which could end up damaging your ears even more as some sounds would be too loud too often.

OTC hearing aids are also not appropriate for people who:

  • Are under the age of 18
  • Are dealing with sudden onset of hearing loss
  • Have hearing loss impacting only one ear that has not been medically evaluated
  • Have tinnitus, especially if it’s related to your blood pressure, or concentrated in one ear

If OTC hearing aids end up being right for you, then it’s important for you to keep track of how they’re working and how you’re feeling. If you start noticing any of the symptoms below, don’t ignore them!

  • Ringing in one or both ears
  • Sudden changes in hearing in one or both ears
  • Any drainage from one or both ears
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both ears

Stop using your hearing aids and make an appointment to see an audiologist. The sooner you get professional help, the better your chances of finding a solution.

Conclusion:

We can all agree that hearing healthcare plays a big part in you having a great quality of life. When you deal with hearing loss, you run the risk of becoming isolated, which can lead to depression and anxiety, and that’s the last thing we want. And while OTC hearing devices may be the least expensive option, they may not be right for you. In the interest of doing what’s best for your health, consult with an audiologist before getting OTC hearing aids. You’ll get more than just the best treatment for your needs, but peace of mind that you’re not compromising your health in the long run.

If you have any more questions about OTC hearing aids, we’re here to help! Give us a call, or set up an appointment. Together, we’ll discover what option is best for your individual needs.