Prescription vs. Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

"Any hearing aid that treats a person’s hearing needs well AND is affordable is something I can add to my list of recommendations."

The long-awaited regulations for the sale of non-prescription hearing aids were finally released in October 2021, so I’ve been interested in what manufacturers would introduce since then.

One reason why I’m interested is because any hearing aid that treats a person’s hearing needs well AND is affordable is something I can add to my list of recommendations.

Why the Two Different Terms?

  • A prescription hearing aid is the new term for traditional hearing aids that are prescribed and fitted by an audiologist or hearing specialist.
  • A nonprescription hearing aid or over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid is one you can buy in a brick-and-mortar store or from an online store.

So, if one costs considerably less, what’s the difference between the two?

Prescription Hearing Aids

As I say above, the new term for what we have always called hearing aids is now prescription hearing aids. This is a way to help people differentiate between them and store-bought hearing aids.

Using the words “prescription hearing aids” ensures people looking for a professional and trusted solution are aware that these are only available through the valuable diagnosis, advice, and support of an audiologist rather than having to self-diagnose and self-treat a hearing loss.

Only an audiologist can diagnose a hearing loss, and their recommendation or “prescription” will be for the most fitting type of hearing aid or treatment for each patient.

Main Differences Between Prescription and OTC Hearing Aids

The biggest difference between the two is that one is a generic fix while the other is a customized treatment.

You can compare it to buying generic reading glasses at your local general store vs. getting a prescription for eyeglasses from an optometrist based on your eye exam. The glasses you get from your optometrist will specifically address your eyesight needs.

Similarly, the hearing aids you get from your audiologist will specifically address your hearing needs all day while the generic ones will make do for the odd period of focused listening.

  • Prescription hearing aids – can treat any degree of hearing loss, from mild to severe. An audiologist programs and fine-tunes them to treat your exact hearing needs.
  • Over-the-counter hearing aids – do not include any professional care and are for mild to moderate hearing loss only.

The second biggest difference is in your diagnosis.

  • Buying from an audiologist – An audiologist carries out a thorough hearing evaluation that includes a physical exam, a medical history, and a hearing exam in a sound booth.

Your purchase incudes as many follow-up visits as it takes to have them fit comfortably and sound right.
Your purchase also includes maintenance and repair checks that are done at the office.

  • Buying from anywhere – An over-the-counter hearing aid can be bought from most general stores with no professional diagnosis.

There is no fitting or programming – you must do all that yourself.

You must pay for any repairs yourself.

You can run the risk of damaging your hearing further if you set the volume too loud.

Researching Different Hearing Aids? Book a Consultation with an Audiologist for the Best Advice.

Which Type of Hearing Aid Is Better For You?

Only a professional diagnostic evaluation will tell you what type of hearing aids will treat your hearing loss best. I test how your hearing does with different pitches, tones, volumes, and word recognition and quickly see exactly what degree of hearing help you need.

Online hearing tests cannot diagnose a hearing loss accurately. Only an audiologist can assess your hearing properly.

The physical part of the exam might show that you have earwax buildup, and once that’s cleaned out you can hear clearly again.

Or it might show that you only need help hearing when there’s a lot of background noise in the room, and an OTC device can help with that.

Whatever the results, I’ll recommend the best possible treatment for your hearing needs and lifestyle, budget, and personal preferences.

Still Unsure About Your Options?

Come see me. I’ve been treating people in Lacey since 2007, and I have years of experience and knowledge to draw from.

You can bet that I’ll know what the best solutions will be for your needs. You buy hearing aids so you can communicate better in every aspect of life, and together we can come up with the perfect hearing treatment for you to do just that.

That treatment might well be an OTC device if all you need is a little extra hearing help sometimes. There are already some great, brand-new OTCs on the market for that purpose.

Book your hearing assessment at South Sound Audiology for an accurate diagnosis, and please feel free to call (360) 464-9780 with any questions about hearing loss and treatment. I’m here to help!

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Julie VanAusdal

Since 2006, Ms. VanAusdal has operated South Sound Audiology, applying 20 years of education, experience, and expertise to provide hearing solutions to pediatric and adult patients in the greater Olympia community. She is passionate about restoring the relationships and opportunities her patients lost because of hearing challenges. Her greatest motivation is seeing her patients enjoy a more active, rewarding, and independent lifestyle due to better hearing. Her commitment to our community shines through in her patient-centered approach to her audiology practice.

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