Over-the-counter hearing aids are now available for sale to the public. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change that would allow a class of over-the-counter hearing aids to be available to adult consumers directly without the care and guidance of a hearing health professional. As of October 17, consumers can purchase over-the-counter hearing aids (OTC HAs) online and at big box stores, pharmacies and even through audiologists. To date, approximately 70 percent of people who need hearing aids have not yet taken steps to manage their hearing loss. This new category of OTC hearing aids was created in an attempt to make hearing aids more affordable and more easily accessible so that more people will take action to improve their hearing.
Here are tips for anyone considering OTC hearing aids:
- See an audiologist first. As a doctor of audiology, I can test your hearing and determine if you’re a good candidate for OTC hearing aids. Hearing loss can happen gradually, and research shows that people have a hard time determining how much hearing loss they may have. A professional assessment will help you to determine whether OTC hearing aids will work effectively for you or if a prescription hearing aid or even an implantable device like a cochlear implant is more appropriate. Hearing evaluations are nearly always covered by insurance, even if hearing aids are not, and knowing appropriate options for you could save considerable dollars in the long run. You can make an appointment and get a hearing test at Integrity Hearing Center by calling 636-728-8840.
- Don’t use an OTC hearing aid if any “red flags” are present. If a difference in hearing between ears is obvious, or symptoms like pain or drainage from the ear are present, it’s important to see a physician or audiologist before proceeding with an OTC hearing aid. Tinnitus (ringing) in one ear, fullness or pressure in your ears, or a sudden hearing loss are other reasons to see a professional.
- Check the OTC hearing aid return policy before you buy. The FDA does not require that OTC hearing aids be returnable but states that device packages indicate the return policy. There are many factors to successful hearing aid use and not all devices will be created equally so it’s important that consumers have the option to return.
- Understand the device’s settings and programming. Not all OTC hearing aids are the same. Make sure the device fits your lifestyle and has settings that can reflect your hearing needs. Understand fully how to adjust the device and its capabilities. If you’re not sure if the OTC hearing aid is doing all it needs to do, I can measure the settings against your hearing loss and discuss the benefits and limitations with you.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to visit with an audiologist. In addition to providing a hearing test and a personalized hearing needs evaluation, audiologists are knowledgeable and capable of making recommendations, programming a device and ensuring that you have the best possible outcome and experience. We are doctoral level professionals who are trained to evaluate hearing, diagnose hearing loss, and help to optimize hearing health and communication through safe and effective use of hearing aids and other devices, realistic expectations, and benefits and risks associated with the use of either OTC or prescription hearing aids.
I can also ensure that hearing health care needs are addressed over time as hearing or demands on hearing change, starting with hearing loss prevention and including all types of hearing loss management.
Call me to make an appointment and we can discuss what is right for you. There are two Integrity Hearing Center locations – one in Troy 636-528-4433 and one in Hermann 636-728-8840. I look forward to speaking with you!