As we enter the time of over-the-counter hearing aids, I wanted to share some of my insights through my 32 years of practicing audiology and almost 30 years of fitting hearing aids.
I rarely end up fitting solely to a prescriptive target for a hearing loss. There is a reason I call fitting hearing aids art based in science.
In my opinion, OTC aids could be a reasonable fitting for someone with a mild hearing loss.
Currently, the new guidelines will allow for OTC aids to be fit to mild- to moderate hearing losses. If someone has a moderate hearing loss, they are barely able to detect normal conversational speech.
Current hearing aid research is showing that this may be too much loss to be successfully fit with a basic OTC device and achieve adequate outcomes. I am absolutely in favor of early detection and early treatment of diagnosed hearing loss.
I also understand the financial constraints that people experience trying to deal with their hearing losses. I also know all the things I do every day to enable people to wear their devices successfully that have nothing to do with programming a hearing aid and teaching someone how to insert it.
Patients need to have context around expectations and responsibilities, emotional support, and support in the adaptation process of adjusting to hearing aids.
They also have a right to expect that they are getting the functional benefit and verification of their fitting quantified and assessed appropriately.
Audiologists can, and I do, offer good entry technology at an affordable cost with appropriate clinical support. Hearing aids aren’t like glasses where you put them on your nose and you can see.
Hearing better is not about the device- it’s about making a device meet functional needs in a variety of listening situations.
My opinion when I get asked about OTC devices is to get some advice before spending one’s money to make sure it’s money well spent.