You’ve probably seen ads for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids available online or via mail order. There are even big-box stores that now carry them. And the attraction of OTC hearing aids is easy to understand:
- You don’t need to consult with an Hearing Specialist in advance
- OTC hearing aids are marketed as aesthetically pleasing
- They’re “billed” as being comparable to normal hearing aids
The costs do not outweigh the benefits.Worse still, you probably won’t end up wearing them long-term (even after shelling out money). In fact, a longitudinal study by MarkeTrak determined that those with hearing loss only wear their OTC hearing aids 30% of the time – compared to 83% satisfaction rate for prescribed hearing aids, based on Marketrak 10 survey.
The Truth About OTC Hearing Aids.OTC hearing aids are not inherently bad. No matter what model or brand you use, there will likely be some increase in overall loudness.But over-the-counter hearing aids suffer from several limitations:
- OTC assistive hearing technology is an unregulated market, meaning there is no guarantee of quality.
- They are designed for mild to moderate hearing loss – despite being marketed for everyone. This explains why most advertisements appear as infomercials during daytime soaps and late-night TV.
- Lower costs typically mean less functionality. Some OTC hearing aids are programmable, but you need to send them to the seller for customization. And prior to that, you must take an online hearing test.
1. Proper TestingHearing loss is caused by different factors, including infection, age, disease, medications, undetected tumors, injury and overexposure to loud noises.Most TV infomercials fail to mention these causes.However, having an Hearing Specialist evaluate your hearing to determine the exact type and cause is an essential step in the hearing aid selection process.
2. Fitting & CustomizationProper screening helps establish a baseline. As you try out different hearing aid options, your Hearing Specialist must perform additional testing to ensure the fitting and customizations are appropriate.This step is much harder with OTC hearing aids since the “one-size-fits-all” approach is a critical component of their low-cost business model. As a result, many wearers simply stop using their over-the-counter hearing aids due to discomfort.You might be thinking,“No problem… Even if they’re uncomfortable, poorly fitted and not optimized, OTC hearing aids are cheaper… So they’re better than nothing, right?”Wrong.There is one final piece of the puzzle.
3. Auditory DeprivationOur ears are what receive auditory information, but the brain is what ultimately processes these signals as “sound.”This function is malleable since the brain is essentially a muscle that:
- Strengthens from usage
- Weakens from inactivity
- Your hearing ability slowly declines
- Sound clarity soon begins to suffer
- Your brain works harder to fill in the gaps
- Stricter product guidelines and manufacturing standards
- Greater transparency about the risks of unregulated hearing aids