Hearing loss is common, treatable and as unique as you. With the different types of hearing loss and levels of complexity, a hearing professional can guide you through selecting the right solution for your specific hearing and lifestyle needs.
Audiologists are trained to identify hearing loss and provide customized treatment that addresses your specific hearing needs and lifestyle. An audiologist can explain the differences between prescription hearing aids and hearing aids available over the counter and guide you on the right decision for you.
What are Prescription Hearing Aids?
Prescription hearing aids are a category of hearing aids available through a hearing professional to treat all degrees of hearing loss. These hearing aids are fitted and programmed by a hearing professional for an individual’s unique hearing loss and lifestyle needs. Hearing professionals also provide follow-up care including service and repairs.
What Does Over-the-Counter (OTC) Mean?
OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids that are available over the counter and do not require a hearing test or licensed hearing professional to fit. They’re made for adults 18 years of age and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. These hearing aids are “one-size-fits most” with no hearing evaluation or follow up care provided.
The FDA has Approved Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled on Aug. 16, 2022, that legalization of “Over-the-Counter” or OTC hearing aids that has taken effect as of Oct. 17, 2022. These products will be available online and in stores to customers without the need of a licensed hearing professional to test or fit the products.
Benefits Of Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids
Price Tag: Traditional hearing aids are seen as expensive because the cost includes the devices along with the service and expertise of the hearing professional.
One Size Fits Most: Over-the-counter hearing aids are designed for the user to be able to open the box and use the product immediately. This is possible with a generic fit and removal of customizations. Most over-the-counter devices come with simple buttons and/or a smartphone app connection for customizations and volume control.
Combining Safety and Help: The FDA passed a law limiting the power and output of over-the-counter hearing aids for patient safety. These devices are beneficial for patients with mild to moderate self-perceived hearing loss. This means that a patient does not need a hearing test to make a purchase. Patients still can buy an over-the-counter device after going to a certified hearing professional for a hearing exam.
Limitations Of Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids
Unknown Hearing Loss or Issues: Much like eyesight, hearing loss comes in a variety of types and pose different challenges. These types include sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss; each type of hearing loss impacts different frequencies and may require differing treatment methods. The lack of a physical ear examination may lead to other unnoticed potential issues that can show similar hearing loss symptoms such as ear drum damage or simple wax buildup.
One Size Fits Most: Over-the-counter hearing aids are like generic reading glasses. They are one size fits most with limited customization for comfort. These devices may help if you need a mild correction but will not be specifically designed for your exact needs. Your ears are unique and what you might find comfortable may not be comfortable to the next patient.
Lack of Service: Over-the-counter hearing aids come with little to no professional service or assistance. For the most part, it is a do-it-yourself solution. The lack of regular cleanings, verification and monitoring of your specific hearing loss leaves room for doubt. Is this device truly helping you? How well does this adjustment fit your needs? Is there a bigger issue or wax build up? These questions plus more stay unanswered.
How Will I Know What My Hearing Loss Is?
The only way to determine hearing loss or if you may need hearing aids is to schedule a hearing exam with a licensed hearing professional. An audiogram and a physical examination are required to determine hearing loss.
Clinically, hearing loss falls into different degrees. Mild, moderate, severe and profound are some of the most common degrees with variations in between. Your hearing loss degree depends on your ability to hear different pitches (frequencies) at different volumes (decibels dB). Hearing threshold of mild loss is 26-40 dB, moderate is 41-55 dB, severe is 71-90 dB and profound is over 91dB.
No matter what type of hearing aids you choose to try, our audiologists can help ensure all your hearing health care needs are addressed over time as your hearing demands change.
Hearing plays a major role in our emotional well-being and overall quality of life – with a growing body of research linking hearing loss to dementia and cognitive decline, it is important that you receive the treatment that is right for you. When we hear our best, it’s easy to stay engaged, alert and active.
Get the individual treatment you need – book an appointment with our audiologists today.
Call Gary D. Schwartzberg Au.D. at (207) 226-0288 for more information or to schedule an appointment.