Hearing aids come in a wide range of sizes, styles and colors to accommodate the preferences of a diverse patient group. A professional’s advice is crucial when making a decision as complex as finding the right hearing aid for you. The FDA recently approved new standards for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, which is thought to increase their availability to individuals with self-perceived mild hearing loss. However, this will also increase the responsibility placed on the wearer to become their “own expert” on the topic.
Prescription Hearing Aids: What Are They?
A hearing professional recommends, programs and custom-fits prescription hearing aids. These devices typically provide optimum results for each case of hearing loss because they are fitted to a specific prescription created by a hearing test. In addition, today’s prescription hearing aids can usually be integrated with smartphones and other devices to enhance the user’s listening experience, and they can be adapted to the individual’s preferences and way of life.
Additionally, there are many different styles of prescription hearing aids available, the most common being: in the ear (ITE), in the canal (ITC), behind the ear (BTE), completely in canal (CIC) and invisible in canal (IIC). These styles will be recommended to you based on the degree of your hearing loss, your lifestyle needs and aesthetic preferences.
What are OTC Hearing Aids?
This refers to hearing aids that don’t require a hearing test or programming from a professional before purchase. OTC hearing aids can either be “one-size-fits-all” devices with a standard sound program (not tailored to a particular prescription) or can be modified to simple profiles depending entirely upon the wearer’s perceptions. Taking this route is preferable to ignoring the issue of hearing aids totally, and it may be extremely helpful in some cases. The problem is that people with hearing loss frequently grossly underestimate the amount of volume they require, leading to insufficient amplification and considerably less benefit than could otherwise be experienced.
What Is the Difference Between Prescription and OTC Hearing Aids?
The core difference lies in the fact that a prescription hearing aid is customized to the wearer based on a unique prescription that is established by a comprehensive hearing exam and then fine-tuned using measurements taken directly from the ear. This ensures that the devices will provide the greatest quality hearing and will precisely correspond to the requirements of the person wearing them.
In addition, with the help of your hearing health provider, you may find the best model for your specific needs, whether that be connecting to phone calls for work or listening to music wirelessly.
And, perhaps most crucially, over-the-counter hearing aids can only be used to treat hearing loss that is classified as self-perceived mild to moderate. People who don’t fit into that band won’t get good enough results from OTC devices.
Finally, prescription hearing aids can only be obtained from a licensed hearing care provider. This professional will then work closely with you to make any necessary changes, clean and inspect the devices, and ensure that you are maximizing the benefits that your hearing aids have to offer. On the other hand, over-the-counter hearing aids are available for purchase in retail stores as well as online and do not require a prescription. They require that you conduct the fitting or programming on your own, and they typically do not provide any additional services or individualized follow-ups.
Which Is the Better Option?
An over-the-counter hearing aid is unquestionably preferable to having no hearing aid at all; but, prescription hearing aids will ultimately provide a much better listening experience because of the customization options. While the convenience of OTC hearing aids may be appealing, it’s crucial to remember you will be missing out on the tailored settings, adjustments and follow-up care.
There are many who desire to reap the greatest possible benefits from the very beginning. The best course of action for individuals in this category is to schedule a consultation with a hearing care specialist. Even if you aren’t sure whether you need a prescription or over-the-counter hearing aid, getting a professional hearing evaluation can help you determine the cause and extent of your hearing loss. Because of the inaccuracy of online hearing tests, even individuals who ultimately choose over-the-counter hearing aids might benefit from seeing a hearing health provider for an evaluation.
If you want to better understand your options when it comes to the various forms and styles of hearing aids, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Hear Again America by calling (877) 905-9493.