It’s Official, OTCs Are Here to Stay—What Does That Mean for Your Hearing?

09/17/2022 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources, Technology

Only recently has the term ‘hearing aid’ become unclear. It used to be universal and included a small number of specific products. It also meant that strict regulations were needed to earn the name.

Over the past couple of years, the term ‘hearing aid’ has become diluted, and it seems that trend is continuing.

Many companies have started making devices called hearing aids, but they are no more than sound amplifiers. Many new companies have popped up across the internet selling these personal sound amplifiers that may not be directly referred to as hearing aids but instead are called over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices.

This can be very confusing for those who are starting to experience hearing loss. It’s hard to know what products will help you and which are outright scams.

What Is an OTC Device Exactly?

An OTC device is a device that is promoted as something that can help those with hearing loss. If you pay close attention, most advertisements won’t tell you exactly how they do this. But that is the most crucial question to ask and why there should be a clear distinction between OTCs and prescription hearing aids.

Prescription Hearing Aids

  • Custom-fit to your ear’s unique curvature
  • Help when there is background noise in active settings
  • Ongoing aftercare from us
  • Prescribed using personal data collected from your comprehensive hearing test
  • Connect to smartphones and smart TVs for volume streaming
  • An advanced piece of technology with different settings to assist many different types of hearing conditions
  • Available through many insurance programs

Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices

  • Do not require a hearing test or any guidance from a professional
  • Must perform the fitting by yourself
  • No aftercare provided
  • Can be purchased at your local pharmacy
  • Only suited for those with mild hearing loss
Get an Accurate Evaluation Of Your Hearing to Know Which Device Works Best For You

Why Have They Become So Popular?

Convenience is becoming a hot commodity these days, and many people are looking to sacrifice quality for price (i.e., Wayfair, Wish, Ikea, etc.). While this is acceptable with furniture and other knick-knacks (I’m guilty), it shouldn’t be with your health.

Let’s use eyeglasses as an example to help visualize our two classes of hearing device groups. Cheaters, as they are commonly called, are available in pharmacies, grocery stores, and many other places.

While these eyeglasses are excellent for those who only need magnification in certain situations, there comes a time when vision loss progresses, and OTC eyeglasses are no longer strong enough. This is a perfect example of how OTC hearing devices should be treated.

OTCs may help some, specifically those who have mild hearing loss. We always advocate seeking help for any health issue before it progresses and gets worse. But with such a small market of people, we don’t want there to be any confusion as to who an OTC will benefit.

Prescription hearing aids have a greater variety of features than any OTC option.  This means more capacity to reach significant degrees of hearing loss than the OTC can.

It also means greater degrees of noise reduction assistance and more innovative features that allow the hearing aid to adjust based on the demands of the environment automatically.

Because it is a prescription, it can be customized to your needs far more accurately than something over-the-counter.

Start with an Audiologist

No matter your hearing loss level, meeting with an audiologist should be your first step. If it’s determined that you have mild hearing loss, then we’ll be the first to recommend you an OTC device that suits your needs.

We’ve researched what’s available and how each company builds its OTCs. There are a few options out there, but they only satisfy a small number of hearing issues.

If prescription hearing aids help you more, we do everything we can to set you up with them. Price usually is what attracts people to OTCs, but as the old saying goes, ‘You get what you pay for.’

We have many solutions; if payment is uncertain, please contact us. Don’t let that stop you from getting healthy hearing and maintaining your lifestyle. Our comprehensive hearing assessments will go over all of that with you, so you’re confident in the future of your hearing.

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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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