If you’re dealing with issues of hearing loss, finding the right hearing aids is key to restoring your quality of life. With so many types and brands of hearing aids, it can often be challenging to know where to start your search. There is a wide range of price points, features, and styles of hearing aids, and with millions of Americans experiencing some level of hearing loss, the hearing aid market is only continuing to grow.
A New Option Joins the Hearing Aid Industry In August 2017, the U.S. Senate passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, making it legal for manufacturers to sell “off the shelf” or over-the-counter hearing aids. At first glance, it may seem that over-the-counter hearing aids make it easier – and more affordable – to restore your hearing quality. However, these hearing aids are almost never a good option for hearing loss treatment, despite the often-attractive low prices and easy accessibility at your local drugstore or big-box retailer. If you’re considering trying an “off the shelf” hearing aid, there are a few reasons you may want to think twice.
OTC Hearing Aids are Often Ineffective
While there are over-the-counter hearing devices on the market at present, they are not technically allowed to be referred to as hearing aids because of how they work. Instead, these Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs) simply make all sounds louder, which isn’t effective for very many types of hearing loss. Unlike a true hearing aid, PSAPs cannot be programmed for specific sound amplification or fitted by a professional according to your specific needs.
For example, if you’re dealing with high-frequency hearing loss, which creates difficulty hearing certain noises like women’s and children’s voices, or in certain situations like restaurants or meetings, OTC “hearing aids” won’t help, since they are not specifically taking in the patients per-frequency prescription, as it is just a generic setting. In fact, for many people, OTC hearing devices make it even more difficult to hear clearly and can cause important medical issues to be missed.
Working with a Professional is Important
Though “off the shelf” hearing amplifiers are widely available online and in stores, and they have been for years, there’s one critical element they don’t include: a hearing evaluation and fitting by a professional. Without a professional exam, it’s impossible to understand the specific type and degree of your hearing loss, making it extremely difficult to choose the right device on your own. Additionally, a professional hearing specialist can offer a custom-fitted device, ensuring you are able to wear the aid comfortably and properly. OTC hearing devices take a “one size fits all” approach when, in fact, no two people have the same hearing, and in most cases, most people have different hearing in one ear versus the other.
Follow-Up Care and Programming aren’t an Option Over the Counter
Hearing loss is a condition that typically changes over time, which is another reason it’s important to trust your care to a professional. For many patients, hearing loss is such a gradual process that it’s difficult to detect the ongoing changes, and OTC hearing devices can quickly become obsolete. Because “off the shelf” devices are closed systems with only very basic settings, they cannot be reprogrammed to meet your needs in the same way a true hearing aid can.
Make a Smart Investment in Your Hearing
As tempting as it may be to try to save some money and purchase an over-the-counter hearing aid, it will only cost you in the long run. Between replacing failing OTC devices, trying to find one that performs at even a mediocre level, and dealing with ongoing hearing loss issues that an OTC device cannot resolve, these supposedly inexpensive options will often cost you dearly. Instead, trust your hearing and quality of life to a professional, like the team at Memorial Hearing.
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