The FDA recently released the final rules on OTC hearing aids. But we don't think they're suitable for everyone. Let's look at this new classification of hearing aid and who they may be right for.
What are OTC hearing aids?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are a hearing aid that can be purchased without a doctor's recommendation or being fitted by an audiologist. The main benefit of an OTC hearing aid is that it does not require a visit to an Audiologist and can therefore be purchased without an appointment or consultation fee.
Those with mild hearing loss would benefit most from OTC hearing aids.
There are four basic degrees of hearing loss, determined quantitatively:
- Mild hearing loss: You can't hear a tone at 25dB, but you can hear it between 26 and 40dB.
- Moderate hearing loss: You can't hear a frequency at levels below 40 dB, but you can hear it between 40 and 69 dB. Hearing loss at this level makes it hard to understand speech and conversations.
- Severe hearing loss: You have severe hearing loss if you can't hear a frequency until it's played at 70dB. When you have severe hearing loss across a wide range of frequencies, you can't hear or understand normal levels of speech or everyday sounds.
- Profound hearing loss: This is when you can only hear 95dB or louder sounds. You may need a special hearing aid if you have severe hearing loss.
OTC hearing aids aren't made to help people with severe or complicated hearing problems. They also aren't for people who have trouble hearing in noisy places or social situations.
They can, however, be useful for people with mild to moderate hearing loss who don't require certain features found in more advanced devices. They're also suitable for people who want to try different styles and brands before buying a more expensive custom device.
Who still needs traditional hearing aids?
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association says that a traditional hearing aid fitted by a licensed audiologist will work better for you if you have any of the following health problems:
- Unilateral (one-sided hearing loss)
- Sudden sensorineural hearing loss
- Take or have taken a drug known to cause hearing loss
- Have had chemotherapy or radiation in the head or neck area in the past
- Pain in your ears all the time
- Frequent dizziness
No matter the hearing aid, working with an audiologist is still critical.
You still need a comprehensive hearing test, which will ensure you are left in no doubt about the level of your hearing loss, helping you make an informed choice on the right hearing aid. It would be best if you also had an OTC hearing aid programmed to your exact hearing needs. If an audiologist fits your hearing aid, you are more likely to be happy with it. Here at The Hearing Spa, we use the latest equipment and evidence-based best practices like Real Ear Measurement to ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients.
Some people in the hearing health industry worry that people will buy and use over-the-counter hearing aids without first having their hearing checked by a hearing health professional. They worry that people might hurt their ears from too much amplification or just not like the products and stop using hearing aids, which would have many social and health effects. We share some of those concerns and that is why we encourage you to think carefully before going for OTC hearing aids and for you to continue to work with a licensed audiologist every step of the way!