Over-the-counter hearing aid choices are showing up more frequently online and in stores. These instruments are meant to make it convenient to get help for hearing loss. They also might make this type of device more affordable. But medical experts and even government officials have some serious concerns about some of the repercussions of using over-the-counter hearing aids. Some states are even issuing warnings because of the number of complaints they’re getting from patients. Some of these concerns are outlined below.
Don’t Skip a Hearing Examination
One main concern of over-the-counter hearing aids is that you skip over important steps in the process, such as getting a hearing consultation and hearing test. It will be impossible to recognize what the best plan for your hearing loss is without these steps. You might also miss signs that your hearing loss is related to other health concerns. Hearing tests also let you know how to set up the device for best results.
There Are Different Degrees And Kinds of Hearing Loss
Generally speaking, people tend to think of hearing loss as a kind of lowering of the volume meter on your ears. When you do that on your stereo (or your phone, as the kids do), the result is immediate: the volume rapidly goes down.
But real hearing loss is more like playing around with the eq levels on a high-end stereo (or your audio app on your computer). That’s because hearing loss is usually asymmetrical, impacting this frequency or that wavelength before others. If your hearing aid, over-the-counter or otherwise, is not accurately calibrated for your specific hearing loss, you could end up damaging your entire hearing.
The particular frequencies that are being amplified by the OTC hearing aid will typically be printed on the packaging (at least on higher quality versions). If you’ve had a recent audiogram you can attempt to do it by yourself. And you may still want some assistance with the programming. When your hearing loss is particularly complex, OTC hearing aids may not offer the kind of customization you’ll need.
Making Smart Hearing Aid Choices
Consumers have more choices when it comes to devices to help with hearing than at any point in history. But it’s also more difficult to make some decisions because there are so many choices. You’ve probably experienced this kind of “analysis paralysis” when flipping through the channels and attempting to choose something to watch.
You can make some good choices with your hearing aids by doing the following:
Make sure you aren’t buying a hearing amplifier. One issue that consumers have encountered is recognizing the difference between an OTC hearing aid and a hearing amplifier. Where a hearing aid will boost only certain wavelengths of sound, a hearing amplifier will turn up the volume on everything. And that can be bad for your ears over time. Obviously, you only need to boost the wavelengths you have difficulty hearing. Making sounds universally loud will dull the sounds you’re already able to hear.
Keep us in the loop. Whether you choose to go OTC or not, it’s incredibly important to talk with us first. We can test your hearing to see exactly how complex your hearing impairment is. An OTC hearing aid might not be a good fit. You will be in a better position to determine which option fits your needs when you get an audiogram.
Over-the-counter hearing aids are often not the best choice. But with some professional assistance and knowledge, most of these challenges can be conquered. Hearing is essential to your over-all health. It’s worth taking the extra step and get examined first.