Since the release of the proposed FDA regulations around over-the-counter devices back in October 2021, there has been confusion around the different types of hearing aids available and which are the better solution.

The confusion has come from OTC devices being labeled “hearing aids” – which has led to traditional hearing aids (medical-grade devices) being described as “prescription hearing aids.”

I want to help local people in our Arizona communities understand the two devices now categorized as hearing aids and how you can determine which option is right for you.

Prescription Hearing Aids

As a society, we look at prescriptions in reference to medication and glasses. We often never think about pre-medicating ourselves or allowing ourselves to just fix our eyesight without an exam.

Sadly, hearing is looked at so much differently.

Most people think hearing aids are all about turning the volume up and down, but nothing could be further from the truth. People need to have a proper examination that allows a hearing care professional to understand how they are hearing and understanding speech.

The most important part of a hearing test is understanding how someone processes the information. We focus on the individual’s ability to process speech in noise and how fast they can or can’t understand speech.

It’s so important to have hearing aids that are the correct prescription to focus on the processing speed of the hearing aid. This is so we can focus on the speed of a person’s ability to understand speech.

It’s our responsibility to clear the air and make it easy for everyone to understand the difference between a prescription hearing aid and one that you can buy over the counter.

What Are The Specific Differences Between The Two?

The crucial difference between prescription hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids is about giving people options.

The key to all of this is for us to make sure people are aware that they are not created equal. It is similar to getting a pair of cheaters at CVS and expecting them to work just as well as prescription lenses.

People need to trust the professionals and not forget that when we get hearing aids, they need to be maintained. More importantly, we need to show the patient how the hearing aids work for them.

We need them to see how much better they can hear and understand. The value of devices is understanding how we can have a better quality of life if we have the right technology for us.

In my opinion, working with a professional is the difference between the two devices. I have seen many patients become frustrated with the lack of support they receive from their OTC company – support that was promised and then not delivered.

A Comprehensive Hearing Assessment Is The Best Place To Start When Determining Which Devices Are Best For You.

How Do I Know Which Option Is Right For Me?

We need to educate people on the difference in technology that is out there. OTC devices have been out for many years. The problem is that most people either:

  • Don’t realize that they have a hearing problem or,
  • Think that all they need is a simple device to fix the issues.

Individuals need to understand that there are major medical connections associated with hearing loss, such as memory loss and balance issues.

Hearing loss is a major medical concern that is not discussed enough. Most people want the OTC since they don’t realize the true implications of their hearing loss. We stand to lose a lot if this is not addressed properly.

I always say the follow-up is more important than the fitting. We need to stay on the lookout for any changes to the patient’s prescription and do everything we can to preserve the way that they are functioning.

When you purchase OTCs, there is no follow-up visit.

You’re on your own to figure out how to make the devices work for you, which is impossible without a comprehensive hearing assessment and a hearing care professional to adjust the devices based on your test results.

The First Step Is To Get A Hearing Assessment Done

The key to solving a problem is to understand the problem first so that you can resolve it properly. Doing an online hearing test is like getting half the information and making a decision on half the information.

I have learned over the years that best practice in regard to testing and verification of how hearing aids are working is critical. Online tests may be close to getting a person’s understanding of sound, but it doesn’t help to translate how the brain is processing what we hear.

You cannot get that from an online test!

How much does a person need to lose when self-diagnosing the loss they have? It’s really scary, as people will realize that they made the wrong choice. As they lose more hearing, they’ll have more trouble with brain fatigue, brain fog, and cognitive concerns as well as balance issues.

Should I Get An OTC Before A Prescription Hearing Aid?

When in doubt, don’t do anything until you know the truth and are aware of what is really going on with your auditory system.

Hearing loss is not just about lack of hearing and more about why your brain is not working well. Could it be that you’re not hearing well because your brain and your ears are not communicating as they should be?

People just need their loss to be explained to them and view this from a medical standpoint as opposed to thinking they just need amplification.

Hearing aids are great if they are the right technology and programmed properly for the individual. There’s a reason why an audiologist goes to school anywhere from 6-7 years and has a doctorate in audiology.

Getting the information you need to make that decision all starts with a comprehensive hearing assessment. You can schedule online or give us a call to book or chat further about your hearing.

Education about hearing loss is key. Knowledge is power. If you’re confused, then find someone that will take the time to explain what is wrong. You’re worth it. It is not about the quantity of life but the quality.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Daniel Hewson

Born and raised in Western New York, Dan Hewson comes to our practice with over 19 years of experience in the field. With a master’s degree in audiology from SUNY Fredonia, Mr. Hewson has extensive experience working in several of the largest Otolaryngology practices in the country, and also as a Regional Manager with Siemens Medical Audiology Division. Father, husband, and full-time employee with us, Dan is currently a student working to earn his doctorate in audiology; it should be completed by 2018.