You may be surprised to know that over-the-counter hearing options have been available in some form or another for a long time now. This technology was better known as a personal sound amplifier (PSAP) that simply increased or decreased sound volume.

They were always considered separate from traditional hearing aids due to their simple design and limited features. 

A prescription hearing aid is much more sophisticated in amplification and customization abilities. Once programmed with your individual test results, its primary focus is to increase soft sounds that are difficult for the user to hear while letting loud sounds pass through. For years, the hearing industry only had these two classes of hearing devices.

Now that we see the introduction of over-the-counter (OTC) devices, it’s essential to determine which one will help you or your loved ones.

Defining a ‘Prescription’ Hearing Aid

Hearing is very much perceptual. Two people with the same hearing loss could look at television and decide to set the volume very differently.

Prescription hearing aids are adjustable based on a person’s experience and needs. This is so important because hearing is not a one size fits all problem.

We can customize prescription hearing aids for you and take into account all the situations you face day in and day out. Learning about your listening environments is a crucial step to matching you with the perfect device and settings within that device.

If You Have an OTC But Aren’t Sure It’s Right For You, Schedule A Hearing Assessment To Find Out

Defining an Over-The-Counter Device

Over-the-counter device selection falls primarily on the consumer’s shoulders. They must make adjustments themselves within their app and ensure a proper fit, making sure it doesn’t fall out or get damaged.

Choosing the right one can be tricky since big companies employ professional marketers to emphasize each product. With no required hearing test, you are left alone to make a decision based on very little factual information. 

Furthermore, over-the-counter hearing devices are not designed for hearing losses greater than moderate level hearing loss. If somebody has more significant hearing loss, they’re not going to see the results they had in mind.

How Do You Choose the Best Option?

OTC devices are designed to help patients who need a minor enhancement in their hearing. They may also help those who already know they have a mild hearing loss and just need a slight boost in certain environments.

If you find yourself, or someone close to you, raising the volume of the television or increasing the volume of their cell phone, then an OTC could offer temporary relief.

However, if you:

  • Turn the volume up, and the sound isn’t getting any clearer
  • Notice that you have to use the speakerphone to understand a phone call
  • Struggle to keep up in regular conversations with any kind of background noise

Then a prescription hearing aid will be better suited for your needs.

What Should You Do if You Think You Need Help?

Hundreds of hearing enhancement products are being pedalled online and at large retail pharmacies. Many of them cost as much, if not more than, the basic prescription hearing aids we offer. 

If you’re unsure of which to choose, that is an indication to come in and discuss your unique situation so we can determine your hearing goals. 

Have your hearing tested to ensure that a prescription hearing aid will be appropriate for your level of hearing loss prior to spending the money.

Many times, a basic prescription hearing aid will be more effective, cost less, and have the professional guidance of an audiologist.

If you’ve already purchased an OTC device, bring it to your appointment so we can help you navigate how to use it safely, verify its effectiveness, and review maintenance as needed.

If you have any questions, please call us, and one of our professionals will be happy to assist you.

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Lance Nelson, AuD, CCC-A

Dr. Lance Nelson graduated with his AuD from Purdue University in 2010. He worked at Spokane ENT Associates, Lafayette ENT Associates, and at the Lafayette Otolaryngology Associates. Dr. Nelson is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and is a Fellow of the California Academy of Audiology. His research on Digital Noise Reduction was published in 2009. He is fluent in Spanish. His hobbies are ocean sports, running, and music.