Who Should Use OTC Hearing Aids?
On October 17, 2022, the FDA's ruling on over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids came into effect. This ruling allows individuals to purchase a hearing aid without needing a medical exam, prescription or professional fitting.
While this is excellent news for consumers experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss, they aren’t necessarily a good fit for every level of hearing loss. Let's learn more about OTC hearing aids and who would most benefit from using them.
OTC vs Traditional Hearing Aids
Over-the-counter hearing aids like the Jabra Enhance™ Plus are hearing aids that can be purchased without a prescription. In contrast, prescription hearing aids require an evaluation by a licensed hearing care professional, who then prescribes the most appropriate hearing aid for that individual.
OTC hearing aids are designed to help individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss and are available at a lower cost than traditional hearing aids. OTC hearing aids can be purchased online or in offices and do not require an audiologist or hearing specialist to be fitted or programmed.
Prescription hearing aids, however, are geared toward the specific needs of the individual. They require a hearing assessment and consultation with a licensed hearing care professional, who will program and fit the hearing aids to the patient's unique hearing loss and lifestyle.
Why Traditional Hearing Aids Might Be a Better Option for You
While OTC hearing aids provide a convenient and affordable solution for individuals with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, they are not the best choice for everyone.
Firstly, OTC hearing aids are not designed to treat hearing loss that is more significant or associated with an injury or underlying medical condition. Individuals with more severe hearing loss or those with medical conditions that affect their hearing should seek the guidance of a licensed hearing care professional and may require prescription hearing aids.
Another limitation of OTC hearing aids is that they are self-fitting, which means they will not be custom fitted to your ears. Prescription hearing aids, on the other hand, are customized to the individual's specific hearing loss and can be adjusted to ensure the best possible hearing experience.
Who Are OTC Hearing Aids Right For?
Now that we know why traditional hearing aids might be the better option for some, who are OTC hearing aids right for?
1. Those with milder hearing loss.
While it's recommended that individuals receive a hearing assessment from a Beltone hearing care professional to determine their level of hearing loss and eligibility for OTC hearing aids, a hearing assessment or office visit is not required. Instead, individuals may consider the following questions to identify whether they’re experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss:
- Do you have no trouble hearing in quiet, one-on-one situations?
- Does slightly turning up the volume on the phone or TV help you hear better?
- Are there a few challenging listening situations where you would like a device to give you a boost?
You might have mild-to-moderate hearing loss if you answered "yes" to these questions.
2. Those without easy access to hearing care.
Many prefer OTC devices due to transportation, time commitment and geographic constraints. Although working in person with a hearing care professional has many benefits, some people are looking for alternative devices they can purchase and set up from home.
3. Those who can't yet afford prescription hearing aids.
Financial constraints are also a common concern, as only a small percentage of insurance plans fully cover hearing aids. In a recent study of those with hearing loss by Wirecutter, more than half of survey respondents reported having no insurance coverage for hearing aids. The average price for OTC hearing aids is closer to $1600 for a pair (Jabra Enhance Plus OTC hearing aids are available for half that at $799!), which is much more reasonable for cost-conscious people.
4. Younger or less experienced hearing aid users.
OTC hearing aids can be an ideal initial option for individuals in the early stages of hearing loss. The target market for OTC hearing aids is typically people between the ages of 40 to 65, relatively tech-savvy, and accustomed to buying devices independently. These individuals may find fitting and adjusting OTC hearing aids at home more manageable and convenient. They also offer a less expensive device for beginners to practice hearing aid maintenance, fitting, and day-to-day use.
While OTC hearing aids may be a good option for some individuals, it's always a good idea to get a hearing assessment and consult a licensed hearing care professional to determine the best solution for your unique needs. A hearing assessment at your local Beltone office can identify the extent of your hearing loss and the most effective way to address it. Don't hesitate to schedule a hearing assessment today and take the first step toward better hearing.