What Are Prescription Hearing Aids And How Are They Different To Over-the-Counter Devices?

01/11/2022 | Children's Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss, OTC, Patient Resources, Technology

For many years, there has commonly been one category of hearing aids – the devices that are fitted by a hearing health professional for people with a mild to severe level of hearing loss.

However, in October 2021, the proposed regulations around over-the-counter hearing aids were released following President Biden signing an Executive Order in July to promote competition in the American economy.

The regulations went into great depth (over 30,000 words) to explain what over-the-counter hearing aids are, what they are not, and the very tight rules that must be followed.

In order to quickly and easily compare the difference between traditional hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids, the regulations used the terminology “Prescription Hearing Aids” to describe the medical-grade hearing devices that you and I know to be hearing aids.

Although aimed to add simplification, it has added a layer of confusion, which is resulting in more people being unsure of the differences and which option is right for their needs or those of a loved one.

In this article, I’m going to share the key differences to ensure that you can make the right decision based on your needs.

What Are The Key Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids And Over-the-Counter Devices?

There is a sizable difference.

The simplest comparison would be readers versus having your eyes tested and having eyeglasses prescribed based on your eye test.

This is why over-the-counter devices are being recommended for people with a mild hearing loss that require hearing help in specific situations, rather than a long-term solution.

You’re able to put them into your ears when you’re out for a meal or when you’re at church — a little like putting your readers on when reading a newspaper — but they’re not designed to be used as a long-term medical-based solution.

Prescription hearing aids on the other hand are for people that want to prolong their long-term hearing health and maximize their hearing.

They require a thorough hearing evaluation to understand what sounds are being missed, and then a set of medical-grade devices are programmed to the exact level of hearing loss and professionally fitted to ensure you achieve the best possible performance.

Each step is with a hearing health professional, and there are many steps required to ensure that your devices are adjusted, cleaned, and continue to deliver the outcomes that you’re looking for.

Prescription hearing aids VS OTC hearing aids

Which Option Is Right For You?

It’s difficult to self-diagnose whether you have a mild hearing loss that needs a helping hand in certain situations or if you have something that needs more of a long-term solution. 

From helping thousands of people to achieve better hearing, we often find that people believe they have a mild hearing loss, only to discover that it’s actually moderate-to-severe upon testing. It’s only when we fit them with devices do they realize just how much they have been missing.

If you or a loved one is concerned about your hearing, my recommendation is that your first step should be to have your hearing evaluated.

In the same way that you wouldn’t prescribe medicine to yourself without seeing a professional, I strongly encourage you to not diagnose your hearing loss yourself and instead visit somebody that can comprehensively evaluate your overall hearing health. It will be a decision that you thank yourself for in the future.

Only after discovering if you have a hearing loss and to what extent should you then consider what the right solution is.

At Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates, we work with both prescription hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids to help find the best solution for your unique needs and circumstances.

If you’re concerned about your hearing or a loved one’s hearing, then you can request a callback by clicking here or schedule a hearing evaluation to understand your level of hearing and receive a recommendation of the best next steps.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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