Are Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids for Me?

The new availability of over-the-counter hearing aids aims to support adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss while reducing the overall expense of hearing devices. However, OTC hearing aids aren’t suitable for everyone.

Seniors sharing a meal together. Hearing consultation helps choose the right hearing aids

Key Points:

  • OTC hearing aids are for those 18 and older with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

  • They offer an affordable, accessible way to aid those with early hearing loss.

  • Users should undergo a professional hearing exam before choosing an OTC device.

OTC hearing aids are an exciting solution for those struggling with hearing loss. However, as hearing loss varies considerably, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution.

What Are Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids?

The over-the-counter hearing aid act was finalized in October 2022, establishing FDA-approved OTC hearing aids to support adults 18 and older with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. This initiative makes hearing aids more affordable and increases competition for listening devices.

OTC hearing aids may benefit those who don’t need hearing assistance all the time or who need support with enhancing speech and improving communication. However, unlike devices requiring a hearing aid prescription, OTC hearing devices have limited features and capabilities.

For example, non-prescription devices are not programmable hearing aids and lack the level of customization available in traditional devices.

Other differences found in non-prescription hearing aids are fit and sensitivity. OTC devices are self-fitted and do not require an evaluation by a doctor. Additionally, users must download an app to adjust their sound amplification.

Who Are OTC Hearing Aids For?

OTC hearing aids are best for adults with only mild-to-moderate hearing loss. They allow users to purchase the devices without consulting a hearing aid doctor or audiologist.

According to the National Council on Aging, the average person waits up to ten years between experiencing noticeable hearing loss and seeking professional hearing assistance. Untreated hearing loss is linked with an increased risk of falling, depression, and the early onset of cognitive decline.

OTC hearing aids aim to help those with hearing loss receive help sooner. However, patients with complex ear conditions, other medical needs, or severe hearing loss will require a more customized solution.

What Are the Advantages of OTC Hearing Aids?

One of the most significant advantages of OTC hearing aids is a lower average cost compared to prescription hearing aids. Current prescription hearing aids average around $2,000 per device, so users who need one for each ear can plan to spend about $4,000. In contrast, some OTC devices start as low as $200.

Increased competition in the OTC market should lower the average cost of prescription and non-prescription devices over time as more cost-effective options become available. In addition to lower costs, many users seek OTC options for the convenience of buying them in-store or online.

However, it’s important to note that working with an in-person audiologist allows for better customization and fitting, regardless of whether you choose an OTC or prescription hearing aid.

Are Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Right for Me?

The American Academy of Audiology advises anyone experiencing hearing loss to receive a hearing exam from an audiologist. The best way to determine whether you’re a candidate for OTC hearing aids is through a professional evaluation.

Additionally, as FDA regulations do not require OTC hearing aids to be returnable, a proper assessment and diagnosis are critical to ensure that you get a suitable device without wasting time and money.

Those with severe hearing loss struggle to hear even in quiet, one-on-one situations, require full-time hearing assistance, and must increase the volume to uncomfortable levels to hear appropriately. Unfortunately, if you believe you have severe hearing loss, OTC hearing aids will not provide the support you need.

In addition to hearing requirements, many OTC hearing aids require users to download an app and follow its instructions to fit the device and tune its sound. The app might include an automated hearing test to help determine the best pitch and treble combination for the user.

Those who struggle with technology or don’t have a smartphone may benefit from a different choice.

How American Hearing & Balance Can Help

Hearing loss can exclude you from the conversation, making you appear uninterested or confused when you can’t hear the sounds around you. However, shopping for over-the-counter hearing aids in Los Angeles can be overwhelming without knowing what you need.

The skilled audiologists at American Hearing & Balance can evaluate your hearing and help you determine the best option for your needs. Additionally, we assist our patients in fitting the device correctly in their ear and ensuring correct setup, regardless of whether you choose a prescription or OTC hearing aid.

American Hearing & Balance has several convenient locations in Los Angeles, Westchester, Westwood, Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, Long Beach, and Torrance, CA. Our audiologists go to great lengths to find the correct device to restore your hearing affordably and accessibly.

Schedule an appointment with a member of our professional hearing aid doctors today, and become part of the conversation again.


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