An Audiologist’s Opinion On OTC Hearing Aids blog feature image

An Audiologist’s Opinion On OTC Hearing Aids

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

The hearing industry has seen a shift in the type of devices available to the public, which has consequently altered people’s perception of the importance of hearing healthcare.

Since President Biden’s executive order on over-the-counter hearing aids was issued back in October 2021, the definition of a “hearing aid” has evolved, and as professionals in the industry, we have had to define the medical grade devices that we provide as “prescription hearing aids” to clearly define the differences between the two.

This is good news.

OTCs can aid people in certain situations, and therefore, I agree that this accessibility to affordable hearing devices is a great first step in the right direction for those in our community with an untreated hearing loss to finally address their challenges.

However, hearing loss is more complex than this “band-aid” approach.

Everyone hears differently, and not one case of hearing loss is the same. Without a comprehensive audiological evaluation, it’s near impossible to know what type of hearing device you need.

Since there are risks involved to those who purchase OTCs without medical and professional support, I want to share my thoughts on these devices and the possible impact they will have to the future of hearing healthcare.

What Is An OTC/Online Hearing Device?

An over-the-counter (OTC) or online hearing device is a personal amplification system to assist those with a mild hearing loss only. They look very similar to prescription hearing aids

These can be purchased at your local pharmacy and even online through the mail without a professional consultation prior. There is no prescription or test required to purchase an OTC. 

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. OTCs

People who suffer from any level of hearing loss will benefit from one of these two products. We are lucky to be in a day and age where we have options available to help us with such an essential part of living – our hearing.

Prescription Hearing Aids

  • A diagnostic hearing assessment is performed to identify your specific hearing loss and/or any underlying health conditions
  • A variety of settings to customize to your hearing needs
  • Has the power to eliminate background noise
  • Always have the support of your audiologist for proper fitting and any other questions or concerns
  • Added features such as connecting to your TV and phone directly
  • Many insurance programs cover the cost. We are happy to investigate this with you.
  • If your hearing changes, we can adjust the settings on your prescription hearing aids. In some cases, you can do this yourself via your smartphone.

Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices

  • Readily available at stores and online
  • No need for a test or prescription from a professional
  • Only amplifies sound
  • Little to no aftercare. However, some offer an 800 number for support.
  • Best for patients with a mild hearing loss but cannot adjust if hearing worsens
  • Usually inexpensive

Why Are Comprehensive Hearing Assessments Essential?

For those considering OTCs, I still highly recommend a hearing assessment first. Many things are happening in the ear that allows us to hear. This means it doesn’t take much for something to cause problems.

Hearing loss can sometimes be a physical problem, for example. If you have impacted earwax that has collected in your ear canal, that will impede your hearing. The solution to that is to remove the wax right then and there.

Once we do that, patients are relieved to get their hearing back and happy they didn’t spend money on another remedy.

A hearing test gives us the data needed to make an informed diagnosis. It is the most important tool we have against hearing loss and how to treat it. 

What Services Are Included With Prescription Hearing Aids?

Getting a prescription hearing aid provides many options and flexibility with how you use it. Beyond that, you are also in a partnership with your audiologist and can lean on them for any issues that may come up throughout your journey to better hearing.

Our professionals at Upstate Hearing Aid Center are with you every step of the way.

A maintenance routine is required with any hearing device to keep it working in top form. We know all the tips and tricks for you to do this at home. If you would rather us do it for you, we can arrange that as well.

The first step is always to get a comprehensive hearing assessment to see if you are a candidate for prescription hearing aids or OTCs. It’s a painless and non-invasive way to find out exactly how you hear and how to improve it.

No matter the results, we are here to help you hear better.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Virginia Wright, AuD.

Virginia (Ginny) Wright has practiced as an audiologist for almost 40 years, primarily in the Upstate, but also in settings as varied as Philadelphia, PA and Key West, FL. An active participant in community and professional associations, she is a Past President of the South Carolina Academy of Audiology as well as a former member of the South Carolina Board of Licensing in Speech Pathology and Audiology. Dr. Wright received her B.S. in Speech Pathology from Mississippi University for Women, her M.A. in Audiology from The University of Tennessee, and her clinical doctorate (AuD) in Audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences. Her commitment to her patients is evident in her enthusiasm to help them on their journey to better hearing. Dr. Wright loves movies, documentaries, dining out, reading, and spending time with friends. She lives in Greer with her two cats, Lana and Helen.

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