As you may have seen, OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids are now available to anyone over the age of 18 with a “perceived” mild to moderate hearing loss.
Did you know they have been available for years? But, now the FDA ruling has provided a definition for what specifications go into a direct to consumer hearing device that the manufacturers can actually call an “OTC Hearing Aid”, before now there were no safety labeling requirements or FDA approved definitions for what constituted an OTC hearing aid designed for the direct to consumer market.
This means that you can go into a participating big-box retailer, such as Best Buy or your local drug store and purchase a pair without many/any questions asked.
But, before you can decide whether OTC devices are a good option for you, let’s first unpack some of what an OTC is and who will get the most out of them.
What Are OTC Devices?
OTC devices are relatively uncomplicated bits of amplification technology that have been designed to simply increase the volume of sound, not actually address your hearing health needs.
They are different from prescribed hearing aids and hearing treatment plans that are customized and programmed to suit your exact hearing loss needs. They are more similar to earphones, they are a ‘one-size-fits-most’ concept, with limited volume adjustments, which makes them a much cheaper alternative without the professional services and interventions.
You don’t need a hearing test to buy over-the-counter devices, and in many cases, there are very few questions asked before you choose which one you want.
Also, as they are marketed to people with a “perceived” hearing loss, you might be wondering what that actually means?
Well, the truth is, as hearing care professionals, we’re not overly fond of that term, as it suggests there’s an element of doubt over whether your hearing is as it should be, in which case, we’d always advise you to have a hearing test to confirm it.
Put it this way, it’s a similar concept to noticing a leak coming from your bathroom and immediately buying a new bath instead of first checking the pipes…
The emergence of OTC devices is the same as if you were a prescription eyeglasses wearer, and ‘readers’ had just been introduced. It’s a solution that will help more people to do something rather than nothing, but it’s not a medical solution nor a full-time solution that will achieve the long-term outcomes of better hearing brain health.
OK, so now you know what OTC devices are, you might be wondering who they’re actually for? Let’s take a look…
Who are Over-the-Counter Devices For?
The FDA defines candidacy for the OTC devices as follows:
- Over-the-counter hearing aids are only meant for those individuals who perceive they have a mild to moderate hearing loss
- No hearing evaluation is required
- The purchaser must be 18 years old or older
- Over-the-counter hearing aids can be sold outside of a medical office
- Should not have one ear hearing better than the other (see an audiologist)
- Not for those who have a sudden change in hearing (see an audiologist)
- Not recommended for those who have tinnitus – ringing, roaring, noises in one or both ears (see an audiologist)
- Not recommended if someone has a history of chemotherapy and/or radiation to the head/neck (see an audiologist)
- Not for those who have active drainage from one or both ears (see an audiologist or otolaryngologist)
- Not recommended for those who have ear pain or discomfort (see an audiologist)
- Not recommended for those who have dizziness (see an audiologist)
Still Have Some Questions? We Thought So…
You might be thinking, “hang on, a lot of these points are succeeded by ‘see an audiologist’, but I thought OTC devices were meant to skip that part?” and you’re exactly right.
OTC devices have been designed to make it easier, more accessible and cheaper for people to get help with their perceived hearing loss, so no wonder you’re left thinking why then are there many instances where it’s actually best to seek audiological advice before purchasing them?
The answer is simple, because, in a similar way that you would see an optometrist for an eye test to determine what corrective lenses are perfect for your eyesight, a hearing evaluation performed by an audiologist is the exact same thing, and, although it’s not law for you to do so, it’s certainly recommended in order for you to know the true state of your hearing.
So, How Do You Know If You’re the Perfect Candidate for Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids?
For complete peace of mind, it’s in your best interests to get an ear and hearing test before you purchase OTC devices, as at least then you know what you’re working with!
It’s very possible that the results of your hearing test will show very minimal hearing loss, in which case a simple OTC device designed to amplify the sound might be a reasonable option for you – which your audiologist will certainly advise you on – however, when it comes to something as important as your hearing, you’re always best not to leave it to chance.
How to Schedule a Hearing Assessment near You
Booking your hearing assessment couldn’t be easier. Your local Audiology and Hearing Aid Associates office in La Grande is open 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday, so choosing a time to suit you is very likely. We have appointments available on select Wednesdays in Enterprise and every Thursday in Baker City.