The Pros and Cons of OTC Hearing Aids: What You Need to Know

  • OTC hearing aids are designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss and provide an affordable and accessible solution for those who cannot afford or do not want to invest in traditional hearing aids.
  • OTC Hearing Aids are available now.
  • OTC hearing aids come in a range of styles and designs.
  • OTC hearing aids have limitations, such as limited customization and potential lack of effectiveness for severe hearing loss, as well as potential risks, such as improper use and delays in seeking medical attention for underlying conditions.

Millions of people worldwide are affected by hearing loss, but traditional hearing aids can be difficult to access and expensive. To address this issue, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids laws in 2017 but they did not become available until 2022. 

These pre-programmed, self-fitting devices are designed to amplify sounds for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss and offer an affordable and convenient alternative to traditional hearing aids that can cost thousands of dollars and require a licensed audiologist’s evaluation and fitting. 

The FDA hopes that by making hearing aids more accessible, more individuals will seek help for their hearing loss, a significant public health issue. This article will examine the features, benefits, limitations, and potential risks of OTC hearing aids, as well as provide guidance on how to choose and use them safely and effectively.

Features and Benefits of OTC Hearing Aids

OTC hearing aids come in a range of styles and types, including in-ear and behind-the-ear designs, and may feature volume control, directional microphones, and background noise reduction to amplify sounds. 

Affordability is a significant advantage of OTC hearing aids, as traditional hearing aids can be costly, while many OTC models are available for a few hundred dollars. Devices cheaper than a few hundred dollars fall under the PSAP category. Because OTC devices do not require a prescription or fitting by a licensed audiologist, OTC hearing aids are more accessible, with people able to buy them both online or in stores. See my latest recommendations.

OTC hearing aids also offer convenience, with many models being self-fitting and pre-programmed, making it possible to use them immediately without waiting for a professional fitting or adjustment.

My favorite devices have a built-in hearing test that you can take via an app on your cell phone. This allows the aids to be set for your hearing loss. For individuals in remote areas or with mobility issues that make it difficult to visit a hearing healthcare professional, this is a significant benefit.

Improved quality of life is another advantage of OTC hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. They can aid in hearing conversations, television, and other sounds, improving safety by making it easier to hear warning signals such as smoke detectors and alarms.

Statistics show that only 1 in 3 adults with hearing loss wear a hearing aid, only 33%. My hope is that OTC devices will raise the statistic and more people will choose to improve their life and hear more.

Limitations and potential risks of OTC hearing aids

Although OTC hearing aids offer several benefits, it is essential to be aware of their limitations and potential risks. A significant limitation of OTC hearing aids is their limited customization. Unlike traditional professionally fit hearing aids, which are custom-fit and can be adjusted for specific hearing needs, OTC hearing aids are designed for a general audience and do not provide the same level of customization.

As a result, the hearing experience may be less effective for some users, especially for those with severe hearing loss.

OTC hearing aids may not be suitable for all types of hearing loss.

They may not be effective for individuals with severe hearing loss or underlying medical conditions that require medical attention. A licensed audiologist should be consulted in these situations to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

Using OTC hearing aids improperly can result in discomfort, and feedback, and pose potential risks. Delay in seeking medical attention for underlying conditions, such as ear infections or tumors, can lead to more severe health issues.

It is crucial to comprehend these limitations and potential risks when considering the use of an OTC hearing aid. Consultation with a hearing healthcare professional is essential to determine if an OTC hearing aid is appropriate for individual hearing needs and to receive proper instruction on how to use it safely and effectively.

How to choose the right OTC hearing aid

When choosing an OTC hearing aid, there are several factors to consider to ensure that it is the right fit for your needs.

Consider the degree of your hearing loss. OTC hearing aids are designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, so if you have more severe hearing loss, they may not be effective for you. You can take online hearing tests that give you some idea of your hearing level but they may not be fully accurate.

It is also possible to seek professional advice before purchasing an OTC hearing aid Audiologists can advise you on professionally fit devices but many also sell OTC devices. Even though they do not require a prescription, consulting with a hearing healthcare professional can ensure that the OTC hearing aid is appropriate for your hearing needs and that you know how to use it safely and effectively.

Overall, choosing the right OTC hearing aid involves a combination of understanding your hearing needs, and personal preferences, and seeking professional advice. With the right OTC hearing aid, you can improve your quality of life and enjoy better hearing. You can see my recommendation on what devices I feel are best on the market currently.

Does Costco Sell OTC Hearing Aids

Costco along with Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Walgreens all sell over-the-counter hearing aids. Costco is known for its low price professionally fit hearing aids. Costco is able to keep hearing aid prices low due to the volume they sell them at and the use of hearing instrument specialists instead of audiologists.

However, OTC hearing aids at Costco are the same price as at all other retailers. As prices are the same, I would recommend buying devices online directly through the official company’s website.

How Much are OTC Hearing Aids

Devices range from $200 up to $3000.

The cheapest devices that I currently recommend are the Go Hearing devices which are $200.

My best recommendation is $800 per set for the Lexie B2 by Bose devices. They are RIC devices.

If you want in-the-ear devices, I would recommend Jabra Enhanced Plus which is also about $800 for the pair.

Eargo OTC devices are up to $3000. I would not recommend them as I believe for the price you would be MUCH BETTER going to be fitted with a professional set of hearing aids.

Jonathan Javid Au.D.

Jonathan Javid Au.D., a seasoned audiologist with an extensive background in the field of audiology. With over 11 years of invaluable clinical experience, Jonathan has dedicated his career to helping individuals enhance their hearing and improve their quality of life.

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