When it comes to optimizing your hearing, more and more information about different hearing devices is being added online, and it’s become more difficult to assess which option is the best one when price is such a big factor.

The short definition of each one is this:

OTC Devices Online Hearing Aids Hearing Care Package
Over-the-counter hearing enhancers/aids which will be on the market soon. Hearing aids sold directly to the consumer online. Hearing aids bundled with hearing care services (available through West Coast Hearing and Balance Center).

OTC Devices

OTC devices are a type of wearable hearing aid that will be on the market as soon as the FDA finalizes the rules and regulations around selling them. They should not be confused with hearing amplifiers (PSAPs) or direct-to-consumer (DTC) hearing aids, which are already sold in stores.

The difference between the three is that the FDA will regulate the OTC hearing aids as medical devices/aids for hearing loss while the PSAPs and DTCs are not regulated.

Currently, no over-the-counter (OTC) devices are approved by the FDA for use in helping with hearing loss. The FDA was supposed to make a ruling regarding OTC use in May of 2020. They have yet to do so.

The idea behind regulating OTC hearing aids was to make them available to people with a hearing loss who are unlikely to ever see an audiologist for their hearing health because of the cost.

However, we believe California law will forbid this without an in-person hearing test and visual examination of the ear.

Studies show that while there is some interest about OTC devices among hearing aid owners, hearing aid wearers will much prefer working through a healthcare professional (78%).

There is greater interest in OTC aids among non-owners, but these still have a predisposition to partnering with healthcare professionals (56%).

Pros and Cons of OTC Devices

Pros

Cons

Cheaper Limited options and features
A quick process Doesn’t treat the cause of hearing loss
More people will treat their hearing loss No maintenance plan or hearing care
Might drive down the cost of today’s hearing aids No hearing test
Can be the right option for specific hearing symptoms No support
Will have the same basic functions of today’s hearing aids No fitting
Adequate for mild to moderate hearing loss Not covered by insurance
  Might further damage your hearing
  Difficult to program correctly

Online Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are sold online by companies that only concern themselves with selling you a product and supporting it for 3 to 4 years.

Everything is done online – the hearing test, order, education, and follow-up support.

Buying online hearing aids is unlawful in California without a comprehensive hearing assessment.

  • The FDA and California require that a licensed physician, audiologist, and/or hearing aid dispenser examine the ear for wax, infection, and medical conditions that would prevent hearing aid use.
  • Also, the FDA and California law require bone-conduction testing, individual ear speech testing, etc., to rule out life-threatening and treatable medical conditions.

Pros and Cons of Online Hearing Aids

Pros

Cons

Cheaper than a hearing care bundle Limited options
A quick process Doesn’t treat the cause of hearing loss
Similar warranty No maintenance plan or hearing care
Online product support Inadequate hearing test
Licensed audiologists and hearing assistants Usually one generation behind the latest technology
  You have to deal with your insurance company
  No local repair office
  No loaned hearing aid for long repair times

Hearing Care Packages

Hearing care packages bundle the cost of your hearing aids and the hearing center’s services together to ensure you get the best possible hearing care plus the best support for your hearing aids.

You get in-person care every step of the way – from choosing the best hearing aids for your lifestyle to fitting them professionally to always having a licensed professional available nearby to adjust and maintain them in perfect working order.

MarkeTrak 9 data indicates that 85% of hearing aid users who have hearing aids four years old or newer are satisfied with their devices fit by hearing care professionals, and 90% of these owners are satisfied with the professional care they received.

PROS CONS
Multiple options to fit with exact hearing and cosmetic needs and lifestyle More expensive
Latest technology Business hours assistance
Exact cause of hearing loss treated by licensed audiologists  
Professionally fitted  
Ongoing in-person hearing care  
Scheduled maintenance at a local office  
Loaner aids for long repairs  
Takes care of all claims with your insurance company  

Caring for Your Hearing Aids Is Easy with a Healthcare Professional

Studies show that regardless of owning or not owning a hearing aid, end users are not particularly comfortable in most tasks related to any part of the fitting process, with the exception of cleaning their hearing aids!

There are greater levels of comfort in undertaking tasks among individuals under 65 years old. The same holds true with male versus female.

All in all, hearing aid wearers much prefer working with a healthcare professional (78%), in part because of the ongoing hearing aid care and maintenance.

Partnering with West Coast Hearing and Balance

With our commitment to providing the highest quality of care available to the industry by following the best practices and applying innovative technologies to hearing care, we would much rather see you have every aspect of your hearing health addressed for life.

When it comes to your hearing, there should be no shortcuts.

We understand how the cost can be a big concern, but we have worked with our patients in the Ventura and Los Angeles communities for more than 20 years and have many options for your particular budgeting needs.

Contact us with any questions about hearing assistance and treatment, or schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment for yourself or for your loved one.

No matter what type of hearing assistance you choose, we want your hearing to be the best it can be and prevent any future hearing damage.

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Gregory PhD, AuD, CCC-A, ABA, NBC-HIS

Dr. Gregory Frazer entered private practice Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, which had 23 offices and was one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. Dr. Frazer is a well-known clinician and teacher, and was the first audiologist to obtain dual doctorates in Audiology, both a PhD. in Audiology as well as the new Clinical Doctorate of Audiology, the AuD.