Over-the-counter hearing aids (also known as “OTCs” or “OTC hearing aids”) hit the market in the fall of 2022. How are they different from traditional hearing aids, and how do you know which is right for your hearing needs?
Over-the-Counter Hearing Devices
Hearing instruments in the U.S. market are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration medical devices. The FDA approved a new class of hearing aid — OTCs — for those 18 and older with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. These devices cost far less than what you’d pay for a traditional hearing aid from a licensed professional.
OTCs vs. Prescription Hearing Aids
OTCs are designed to treat self-diagnosed mild to moderate hearing loss. You do the programming, adjustments, and fitting.
Traditional hearing aids are prescribed and customized by a licensed hearing care professional who has thoroughly evaluated different aspects of your communication needs.
OTCs vary in quality — some compare well to traditional aids, and some pale in comparison. And the average consumer can’t tell the difference. A licensed professional has the expertise to determine which hearing aids are worthwhile and which aren’t.
If You Decide to Purchase OTC Hearing Devices
It’s possible OTCs will suffice right now if your hearing loss is mild. If your hearing gets worse or you suspect something is wrong, it’s worth seeing a professional — for several reasons:
- Self-diagnosis can lead to under- or overtreatment of hearing loss. Either can affect your health and quality of life.
- Hearing problems could develop because of earwax buildup, infection, or some other source that self-treating with OTCs may cause you to miss.
- Annual evaluations provide a hearing health baseline. This makes it easier to stay ahead of changes in your hearing.
- A hearing care professional can assess whether the OTCs are truly meeting your hearing needs.