As the number of Americans receiving a hearing loss diagnosis grows, so does the demand for more choices when it comes to treating that hearing loss. One of the newest solutions now available to those with hearing loss is over-the-counter hearing aids.
What are over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are the result of the OTC Hearing Aid Act passed by Congress in 2017. This legislation approved the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). OTC hearing aids are ready alternatives to traditional hearing aids and, as implied by the name, do not require a hearing healthcare provider to purchase.
While there is optimism that OTC hearing aids could provide a cost-effective solution for many with mild to moderate hearing loss, not all those diagnosed are open to the idea. Recent surveys indicate that while many recognize the potential benefit of a lower up-front cost, they are also quick to point out that the price tag could mean sacrificing important benefits.
Pros and cons of OTC hearing aids
If you’ve looked into hearing aids, you may be aware that the price tag of traditional hearing aids can be much higher than that of ready-to-wear, OTC hearing aids. This cost is often not covered by insurance providers making it a significant investment. OTC hearing aids may be a welcome alternative for anyone struggling to hear better without breaking the bank.
With that said, it’s important also to consider the bigger picture.
What many may not take into account when deciding between OTC and traditional hearing aids are the benefits and services included in a traditional hearing aid investment such as:
Hearing aid fittings and ongoing adjustments
Guidance on selecting the best hearing aid and features
Counseling on use and maintenance of your hearing aid
This guidance can make all the difference in how well the hearing aids work, how comfortable they are and how likely individuals are to continue using them to treat their hearing loss.
What consumers are saying
There is no doubt that the OTC hearing aid debate continues with pros and cons on both sides. Thanks to several surveys and interviews, those in the hearing industry and consumers with hearing loss considering their options are getting unique insight into the debate between traditional and over-the-counter hearing aids. Here are just some of those insights:
In one recent article, several individuals diagnosed with hearing loss were interviewed about over-the-counter hearing aids, and it was the benefits and services they received when working with hearing healthcare professionals that were a recurring theme in their answers.
Approximately 75% of those involved in this survey “wouldn’t consider a do-it-yourself option for hearing care and would want professional hearing testing, hearing aid selection and hearing aid programming.”
Consumers would like more choices to manage their hearing health including options to work with a hearing healthcare provider to fit and adjust OTC hearing aids.
Thisstudy uncovered a link between hearing healthcare provider counseling and hearing aid wearer success.
Some consumers are thinking outside the box opting for a traditional hearing aid with an OTC hearing aid as a backup option.
The bottom line is to consider the bigger picture. Take into account your needs, your situation and total investment. Work with a hearing healthcare provider to get more information or to schedule a hearing evaluation and discuss options.