Over-The-Counter vs. Prescription Hearing Aids – What’s The Difference?

08/08/2022 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources

It’s our job to diagnose, educate & counsel based on your results. It’s not our job to force you into devices.

Until recently, the term “hearing aid” was universal and covered a lot of products. It also meant that a certain amount of regulation was needed to call them that.

Over the past couple of years, that definition has become murky.

Many companies have started producing products called hearing aids but are no more than sound amplifiers. An executive order from President Biden addressed this.

In 2021, President Biden issued this order to pressure the FDA to finalize the regulations they had promised years ago. During this time, many new companies have popped up across the internet selling these personal sound amplifiers that they call “hearing aids.”

This can be very confusing for those who are starting to experience a hearing loss. It’s hard to know what products will help you and which might do more harm than good.

In this article, I will share the key differences to ensure that you can make the right decision based on your needs.

What Is A Prescription Hearing Aid?

To appropriately program hearing aids, a diagnosis and degree of hearing loss need to be established.

Once diagnosed, the hearing aids are selected based on the loss (strength), technology needs (how smart are they) & other key features, such as dexterity & visibility concerns, connectivity & others, that may be present.

The hearing loss is then programmed into an algorithm, a fancy math equation, to process the sounds around the devices and enhance your hearing.

You cannot get a prescription hearing aid without going through this process.

Older hearing aids were glorified volume up or down style devices. We’ve become much more knowledgeable at approaching hearing loss and are more able to use specific prescriptive programming for each individual hearing loss – even each ear.

After programming the devices, there are verification measurements (REM) that allow us to ensure the prescriptive formula is accurate for your ears.

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

These two offerings are not alike. We want to make a clear distinction between the two because they are very different products.

Prescription Hearing Aids

Prescription hearing aids are specific to each patient. They are not a one-size-fits-all approach.

You must get a comprehensive hearing assessment before getting fit for any prescription hearing aid. This is performed by a professional audiologist who can accurately diagnose your hearing issue.

Prescription hearing aids also have much more customization options. They can assist patients whose hearing is changing or those who have complications. They can even be programmed separately if you have one ear that is stronger than the other.

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

OTC devices are made for the masses, not individuals. They are akin to buying reading glasses off the shelf. They are not as powerful as prescription glasses, but they offer some relief in certain situations.

OTCs are only for those with a mild hearing loss. Even then, they will only provide relief temporarily. They have little to no adjustment options, so as your hearing loss progresses, you will have to buy a whole new OTC.

A Diagnostic Audiological Evaluation Will Help Determine The Best Treatment For You.

Do You Need Prescription Or Over-The-Counter Devices?

If you’re having difficulty hearing, get a test. Diagnostic hearing evaluations are a great tool in knowing the characteristics of your hearing.

If your hearing is normal, we have a solid adult baseline. This is a great monitoring tool as you continue the aging process. If you have a hearing loss, we’re able to identify your needs and start treatment before your brain loses its ability to hear correctly.

How do you know which device to choose? Talk to us!

We have lots of information and can make recommendations based on the information you’ve provided. We cross-reference your test results with matching products and determine whether you are a candidate for prescription hearing aids or not.

What Should I Do If I Suspect I Have A Hearing Loss?

Come in and have a consultation. Getting a painless and non-invasive hearing assessment done will hold the answers to getting your hearing back on track. You can even schedule your appointment online.

Allow us to answer your questions and ease your concerns as well. We have been doing this for a long time. We’re super friendly, sometimes funny, but most of all, we’re here to help you make the best choices for your own hearing healthcare.

Please call us anytime with your questions, concerns, and comments. We’d love to help.

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Dr. Emily McMahan

Dr. McMahan attended the University of Cincinnati where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2009. She furthered her professional education by obtaining her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in Philadelphia in 2013. She completed her residency in Anchorage and has been applying her expertise to her patients in the Pacific Northwest for several years. Whether you need hearing testing, hearing aids, or assistance with managing tinnitus in your daily lives, Dr. McMahan is qualified to assist you!

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