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OTC Hearing Aids vs. Prescription Hearing Aids: Which Are Right for You?

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New FDA regulations are making it easier for Americans experiencing mild hearing loss to acquire hearing aids. Some hearing aids are now available over the counter—without a prescription and without making an appointment with a hearing care professional—to help make hearing aids both more accessible and more affordable to anyone experiencing mild hearing loss.

We checked in with Dr. Kathy McGowan, Doctor of Audiology at Beltone, to break down what you need to know.

Prescription hearing aids are customized and fitted for you by a hearing care professional based on the results of your audiogram. The prescribed hearing aids can come in a number of styles, including custom models that look like an earbud or that fit completely inside your ear canal, microphone- and receiver-in-ear (M&RIE) models that use an extra microphone to provide an even better hearing experience, and behind-the-ear styles that sit behind your ear and run sound through a tiny cable into your ear canal.

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids can be purchased online or in a store without consulting a hearing care professional—often for a much smaller price tag.

Keep reading to learn if OTC hearing aids could be a good fit for you.

OTC Hearing Aids Work Best for Mild Hearing Loss

If you have a hard time hearing in certain situations—such as noisy restaurants or crowded areas with lots of background noise—but don’t notice a change in your hearing in quieter circumstances, OTC hearing aids could be perfect for you. Because this type of hearing loss is typically mild and only affects you in certain situations, you might only need to wear your hearing aids occasionally.

OTC hearing aids like the Jabra Enhance™ Plus use the same technology as prescription hearing instruments, allowing you to precisely focus your hearing when you need to. They are also:

  • Rechargeable, so you don’t have to worry about batteries.
  • Weatherproof and sweatproof, so you can wear them rain or shine.
  • Designed to look like earbuds, so it might not be obvious you’re wearing hearing aids.

So, if you’ve noticed a change in your hearing in certain situations and think you would benefit from occasionally wearing a hearing aid, OTC hearing aids might be the right fit for you. However, if you think you might need to wear your hearing aids more often than not, seeking a prescription from a hearing care professional is recommended.

Prescription Hearing Aids Offer a Tailored Hearing Experience

A hearing care professional can measure your hearing loss and prescribe a solution specific to your unique needs. For anyone experiencing more-than-mild hearing loss, prescription hearing aids will be the most effective solution.

Prescription hearing aids are capable of treating all levels of hearing loss, from mild to profound, and your hearing care professional can precisely tune and adjust them to provide a seamless hearing experience. Prescription hearing aids also come in a variety of styles. Your hearing care professional can help you determine which is best suited to your lifestyle.

Better hearing starts with a free hearing consultation and screening at a Beltone office, where your hearing care professional will learn more about your lifestyle and personal history and measure the extent of your hearing loss. Next, your hearing care professional will make recommendations and help you try on different hearing aids to find the one you’re most comfortable with. Once you’ve made your selection, you’re hearing aids will be fine-tuned to deliver the most natural hearing experience possible.

Prescription hearing aids aren’t just for people experiencing more-than-mild hearing loss. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, if you have any of the following health conditions, a prescription hearing aid is recommended:

  • Unilateral (one-sided) hearing loss
  • Sudden and/or recent hearing loss
  • Ringing or beeping in one or both ears
  • Constant pain in one or both ears
  • Frequent dizziness or vertigo
  • Drainage from one or both ears
  • History of chemotherapy or radiation in the head or neck area
  • Use of medication known to cause hearing loss

If you have a history of any of the above, visit a Beltone office for a free hearing screening with a hearing care professional.

Which Is Right for You?

OTC hearing aids can effectively counteract the symptoms of mild hearing loss, while prescription hearing aids are recommended for anyone experiencing more-than-mild hearing loss or other health concerns.

Buying OTC hearing aids is a bit like buying reading glasses at the supermarket (which might be all you need!) while buying prescription hearing aids is like going to an optometrist to get glasses that address your specific eyesight needs.

Unsure which option you should choose? Only a professional can diagnose hearing loss and make treatment recommendations. Schedule your free hearing screening with a Beltone hearing care professional today to learn more about your hearing aid options.

Lifetime Hearing Services can help with all of your hearing aid needs and answer any questions you may have.

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