Are Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Worth the Cost Savings?

OTC hearing aids
Hearing aids are more accessible and cost-effective for mild to moderate hearing loss. The FDA has created a new category for hearing devices: over-the-counter hearing aids. These products are also known as personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs). They are available without a prescription or a visit to any medical professional.
We know many people refuse to seek help for their hearing loss. This causes major detrimental effects on their quality of life. Making hearing aids an OTC product may seem like a good solution. There’s more availability, more marketing about hearing loss, and potential cost savings. Those features can have a positive effect on helping people with their hearing loss. But, the non-prescription hearing aids themselves may have the opposite effect.
People have a high risk of using OTC hearing aids the wrong way. It can also fail to improve hearing loss or improve it enough to please the consumer. This can prevent buyers from seeking hearing help from a professional. Consumers may be more empowered now, but is that power beneficial to their health and hearing?

OTC hearings aids are not a catch-all solution

Hearing loss is most often progressive

Although your hearing loss may start out as mild, it is not common to stay that way. And remember that idea of self-perception of mild-to-moderate hearing loss? There is little evidence to prove that people can determine their degree of hearing loss. You may think you have mild hearing loss, but it may be a greater loss. This makes you at risk for choosing an improper PSAP device. This leads to you not gaining the most benefits.

OTC hearing aids are not for everyone

OTC hearing aids may be a good solution for people with mild hearing loss. Visiting with a hearing care specialist will still be the best option for most people. Hearing does not work like eyesight. Eyeglasses have a unique prescription. They help you see better immediately when you start wearing them.
Hearing loss is not that straightforward. People sometimes wait years for help for hearing loss. This is because we don’t know what we can’t hear. During this time hearing can decline. You will need many trips to the hearing care specialist. These are to fine-tune your hearing aids as your hearing needs change.

You need to treat hearing loss

Many people look at hearing aids as a product they buy and put in their ear. This makes people think like consumers instead of patients with hearing loss. This consumer-vision leads to shopping around and think more about cost. This is great when purchasing your next refrigerator or television or stereo. But what if your future hearing is at stake?
You need a hearing care specialist. When choosing and fitting OTC devices, you will not have had a professional hearing exam. Hearing care professionals provide expertise to patients in many areas. These could include things such as the following.
  • Providing a baseline of hearing to help track future hearing loss.
  • Diagnosing the type of hearing loss.
  • Diagnosing the degree of hearing loss.
  • Determining a person’s candidacy for hearing aids.
  • Identifying the right hearing aid device.
  • Optimizing the hearing aid fit.
  • Programming the hearing aids.
  • Offering counsel on expectations and answering questions.
  • Discussing other assistive listening devices.
  • Providing follow-up visits to maintain device performance.
  • Tracking hearing loss and adjusting treatment plans.
Hearing aid companies offer options that could be helpful for many people. It’s the professional expertise that make all the difference when it comes to your hearing. If you are not a dentist and have tooth decay, do you perform your own dental work? Can you perform your own eye exams and order lenses when you need vision correction? Why would you treat your sense of hearing any different? You can’t buy a treatment plan when you buy OTC hearing aids.

Quality of life versus cost: keep it stress-free

OTC hearing aids are being portrayed as equal to prescription hearing aids but at a cheaper cost. This only addresses the money aspect of hearing assistive devices. Today’s state of the art hearing aid technology offers so much more than sound amplification. Prescription hearing aids account for your entire lifestyle. Some of the emerging and already available technology includes the following.
  • Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Hands-free, streaming to your devices from apps. It allows for many devices, improved signal, and remote control capability. See the StreamLine Mic for an example.
  • Improved speech quality.
  • Undetectable size.
  • Wind noise reduction.
  • Synchrony: hearing aids working together instead of separating them.
  • Rechargeable hearing aids: a full day of wear, then recharge and dry while you sleep.
  • Biometrics health tracking.
  • An endless array of apps (myHearing App is a great example).
  • Virtual visits with your hearing care specialist.
Prescription hearing aids are more convenient than OTC devices. They are also low-maintenance. These devices use technology to help your day-to-day quality of life, not only your hearing. This means that you don’t have to worry about them. Your hearing aids also come with a hearing aid professional. They can answer questions any time, adjust the fit, programming, monitoring, and more.
You don’t have to tailor your life to your hearing aids. They are for you, made to fade into the background of your life while bringing the best of your life forward. It’s a matter of quality of life over cost. Playing with your hearing health isn’t a bargain.

What if the cost is the only bar to getting hearing aids?

In a study by Indiana University, OTC hearing aids helped older adults with hearing loss. The people who had professional help with fit and instruction had a better outcome. The study compared outcomes among the three groups of patients.
  • A group that received a hearing aid and services of a hearing care specialists
  • A group that followed an over-the-counter process, choosing a pre-programmed hearing aid. They did not know that they received the same high-end digital pair as the first group, but without a fitting.
  • A control group that had a professional fitting for a placebo hearing aid. This hearing aid had no amplification.
The results showed the OTC group to be less satisfied with their devices. They were also less likely to buy them after the study ended. A little over half the OTC participants were likely to buy the hearing aids after the trial. This is when compared to 81% in the hearing care specialist group. Satisfaction increased for those in the OTC group who saw a hearing care specialist. They saw them for a four-week follow-up period after the main trial. More of them also chose to buy their hearing aids after the four weeks. This was even though they said they would not buy them.
The health community want people with mild hearing loss to use OTC devices than nothing. This study helps to prove that they are not a replacement for the expertise of a hearing care specialist.
When you first see those OTC hearing aids, you may wonder if they’re worth it. Don’t let your wallet, or self-perception, determine your hearing needs.
In the market for a prescription hearing aid? Contact Atkins Hearing Center today!