What to Expect When OTC Hearing Aids Appear on Drugstore Shelves

Audiologists explaining ear model

In October, drugstores, big box stores and mass merchandisers will begin selling over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. They differ from traditional prescription hearing aids you might purchase from an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.

Understanding OTC Hearing Aids

There are major differences between OTC devices and prescription hearing aids that are important for you to understand. With OTC devices, you are responsible for determining your level of hearing loss, so you won’t have the advantage of professional input. Unlike having a test conducted by a doctor of audiology, you will answer a few questions on the package and determine your level of hearing. That means you’ll also have to fit and adjust OTC hearing aids yourself. You won’t know if your hearing loss could be attributed to an ear infection, a tumor or another medical problem that should be addressed to correct your hearing.

With OTC hearing devices there is no follow-up care like what you would receive with prescription hearing aids. Audiologists don’t usually adjust OTC hearing aids. They also don’t offer follow-up care, cleaning or assistance for OTC devices.

OTC hearing aids aren’t made to fit your unique ear shape. So, you could spend several hundred dollars on devices that may not suit your ears and hearing needs. With prescription hearing aids, you receive devices designed to fit your ear canal to provide maximum comfort and the best possible performance.

The Advantages of Prescription Hearing Aids

You’ll receive a physical exam of your inner ear canal to check for obstructions, tumors and infections before you get prescription hearing aids. An expert doctor of audiology will conduct a comprehensive hearing test in a soundproof booth to evaluate the severity and cause of your hearing loss to determine if hearing aids are necessary.

You benefit from personalized audiology services and support when you buy prescription hearing aids. Those services include unlimited follow-up appointments for adjustments and cleanings.

Your prescription hearing aid purchase at Audio Help Hearing Centers includes a 45- to 60-day free trial and a three- to four-year warranty. You can come back to your audiologist for any adjustments during the warranty period.

Custom Hearing Aids and RIC Hearing Aids

Prescription hearing aids come in one of three styles, custom, behind-the-ear (BTE) and receiver-in-the-canal (RIC). OTC hearing aids generally come in the RIC style. While there will be some styles that do not require a receiver behind the ear, these hearing aids are not custom made for your ear canal.

Prescription custom hearing aids are made to fit your unique ear canal shape and hearing needs. They are lightweight, comfortable devices ideal for wearing with glasses, hats and masks.

RIC hearing aids have a behind-the-ear component that connects to a receiver in your ear canal via a thin wire. RICs account for about 95% of non-custom hearing aids. RIC devices are one of the most popular hearing aid styles due to their discreet design, unique programming and extensive features. The in-ear receiver is a custom mold or plastic dome that allows sound to flow into your ear canal.

Schedule an appointment at Audio Help Hearing Centers if you’re looking for hearing aids in New York City, New York or Stamford, Connecticut. Our doctors of audiology will help you find the right style to suit your needs.


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