Are over-the-counter hearing aids right for me?

Family Health
Dec 8, 2022

Anyone experiencing hearing loss should seek an evaluation by an audiologist before making any treatment decisions

In October 2022, over-the-counter hearing aids became available to the public. That can be convenient for some people experiencing mild hearing loss, but it’s not the best option for everyone.

OTC hearing aids are FDA regulated and recommended only for certain people, says Rachel Goldsmith, senior audiologist at Georgia Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists. OTC hearing aids are best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss and ages 18 and older. They also have a maximum output level to prevent further damage from using it.

OTC hearing aids can currently be ordered online and average around $1,000 a pair. That means you will have to fit them and program them yourself with an application downloaded on your phone, so you need to be somewhat tech savvy, Goldsmith advises.

But before you consider investing in OTC hearing aids, you should have a comprehensive evaluation with an audiologist.

“We can determine if there is hearing loss, what amount, what type and if there needs to be any other medical referral,” Goldsmith says. “Sometimes it’s something that a physician can repair or improve with medical treatment. You may also need imaging to make sure nothing more serious is going on. We can make the best recommendation for you based on our evaluation.”

While OTC hearing aids may be suitable for some, the gold standard in treating hearing loss is still prescription hearing aids. Your audiologist will determine the best hearing aid for you based on testing and help fit and program the hearing aid. The audiologist will teach you how to use it and help troubleshoot if any problems arise.

“None of that will be done with over-the-counter,” Goldsmith says. “Those are meant to be very simplified without any professional expertise.”

Still, most audiologists are excited about OTC hearing aids if for nothing else than to open the conversation about hearing loss. Goldsmith still encourages you to meet with an audiologist regularly if you have hearing loss to monitor your condition because hearing loss typically gets worse with age.

When to first see an audiologist

Are you noticing it’s more difficult to hear in crowded rooms with lots of background noise? Do you have to turn the TV volume up louder than normal just to hear it? Do you have ringing in your ears?

These are all reasons you would want to see an audiologist. They can determine if you are experiencing hearing loss and to what degree, and then make a recommendation about the best treatment option for you.

Related Article: Five things to know about adult hearing loss

St. Joseph’s/Candler has doctorates in audiology at both our Ga. ENT Specialists practice, located on the Candler Hospital campus, and at our Center for Oto-Neurology practice, located on the St. Joseph’s Hospital campus. 

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