For the hard of hearing, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a game changer. They’re a lot like non-prescription reading glasses, wrist braces, and painkillers. You can skip the doctor’s appointment and go straight to the drugstore! And compared to prescription hearing aids, OTC versions are more affordable. But here’s the real question: Do they even work?
Symptoms Of Hearing Loss
Obviously, not everyone needs hearing aids. You most likely have a hearing problem if talking to others feels difficult and frustrating. Maybe you can’t hear whispering, or need to turn up the radio or television. If your personal and social life feels limited by hearing loss, hearing aids may be worth considering.
Who Is Likely To Suffer From Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is more common with age. One in 3 adults between 65 and 74 years of age have hearing loss, while almost 50 percent of those 75 years or older are affected. Younger people can also have hearing issues. Years of working in construction, airports, and music are common reasons. Sometimes, hearing loss can even be caused by heart conditions, head injuries, infections, tumors, or medicine.
Typically, an otolaryngologist looks into the cause of the hearing loss. An audiologist, or hearing professional, is licensed to prescribe a hearing aid and will measure the type and severity.1
About Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids
A hearing aid is a wearable device that amplifies sounds, making it easier to hear. To get an OTC hearing aid, you won’t need to visit an audiologist. Most devices cost around $100 or less, with some costing as much as $500.2
Why Are OTC Hearing Aids Right For You?
1. Suits A Mild Hearing Loss
In a 2017 study in the American Journal of Audiology, researchers compared OTC and prescription hearing aids. The 158 participants ranged from 55 to 79 years old, with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The OTC versions had slightly poorer results – but not by much.
If your hearing loss isn’t severe, consider OTC hearing aids. The best part? Price points don’t affect the outcomes, so don’t bother splurging.3
2. Can Be Affordable
Another 2008 study shares that OTC devices are great for patients on a budget. Again, researchers found that they aren’t quite as good as prescriptions. But since they’re so expensive, OTC hearing aids are a great solution. Something is better than nothing!4
3. Gives Temporary Therapy
The American Journal of Audiology thinks OTC devices are ideal for interim steps. In other words, when rehabilitation starts, an OTC hearing aid may be a temporary solution. It can really benefit people who are just beginning to lose their hearing ability.5
The Final Verdict
OTC hearing aids do work. However, when compared to prescription devices, they don’t always meet a person’s needs.6 Nearly 28.8 million American adults can benefit from hearing aids – but only 1 in 4 use them! OTC versions are more accessible, offering a remedy for a nationwide problem.7
|↑1||Hearing Loss and Older Adults. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑5||Callaway, Susanna Løve, and Jerry L. Punch. “An electroacoustic analysis of over-the-counter hearing aids.” American journal of audiology 17, no. 1 (2008): 14-24.|
|↑3||Humes, Larry E., Sara E. Rogers, Tera M. Quigley, Anna K. Main, Dana L. Kinney, and Christine Herring. “The effects of service-delivery model and purchase price on hearing-aid outcomes in older adults: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial.” American journal of audiology 26, no. 1 (2017): 53-79.|
|↑6||McPherson, D. B., and C. M. Cheng. “Over-the-counter hearing aids-Electroacoustic characteristics and possible target client groups.” In Abstracts of the XXIV International Congress of Audiology. International Society of Audiology., 1998.|
|↑7||Model approach for over-the-counter hearing aids suggests benefits similar to full-service purchase. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.|