Dr. Mayer’s Opinion Of OTC And Online Hearing Aids

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We love that more and more people are searching online for solutions to their hearing loss issues because only about 50% of people with a hearing loss will seek treatment for it.

So it makes sense that while you are looking, the low prices advertised by over-the-counter (OTC) and online hearing device brands will pop up in your feed. After all, the marketing spend on these products is unbelievable.

And let’s face it, without knowing all the pros and cons of purchasing hearing assistance, it can be easy to win us over with promises of an easy, cheap fix. Which is why I’d like to add to your knowledge with some important truths about buying these devices online.

What Is An OTC/Online Hearing Aid?

An OTC product is usually a sound amplifier (PSAP) or very basic hearing aid you can purchase directly at any retail store, in the same way that you can buy glasses at Target or Walmart.

An online hearing aid is a hearing aid that can be bought online without requiring a hearing test.

But the big concern, for me, is that buying a hearing aid with no hearing care and after a low-quality hearing test — if you even get that — can’t possibly address your hearing loss properly.

While the FDA mandates OTC hearing aid manufacturers’ packaging to state that you should see your primary care provider or other healthcare professional before buying the hearing aid, we all know how often people pay attention to suggestions.

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The Pros And Cons Of OTC And Online Hearing Devices

As you’ll see, the cons of buying hearing devices online far outweigh any pros.


Treatment – These allow an individual to begin the process of identifying themselves as hearing impaired earlier than if they went to be truly diagnosed. They see the process of treating their hearing loss as something with a simpler solution.

Cost  – Provide easier and more affordable access to sound amplification.


Hearing loss is not evaluated properly – Many people don’t even notice they have a hearing loss until they have a moderate to severe loss, and the online aids won’t help them. Only an in-person hearing test will give the correct evaluation.

Treat hearing loss poorly – Because of my point above, they might use them and decide they don’t work properly and never treat their hearing loss at all, when the issue is the level of hearing loss present. This would mean any money spent is totally wasted.

Possible hearing damage – Some people don’t have a hearing loss at all but think they do. It might be because of an abundance of earwax or some other issue. Amplifying sound, in their case, can actually damage their hearing.

Health issues undiagnosed – While most people’s hearing loss is caused by aging, they might have a conductive hearing loss, which is caused by an underlying medical condition that won’t even be caught or treated if they are not seen by an audiologist. This can even be dangerous.

No custom fit – While online hearing aids are being advertised to everyone, they are not made for everyone. Hearing aids are never a one-size-fits-all option. The programming should always be customized to the patient’s audiogram and needs.

Very basic options – Most online offerings are of one product or of a battery or rechargeable version of one product. In comparison, we partner with many of the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers and at different price points so you can choose the best hearing aid for your lifestyle, hearing results, and budget.

Ongoing support or hearing care missing –The cost of buying a hearing device online reflects the fact that all you are paying for is the product. No professional services are required or usually included, so you get no long-term expert care.

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. OTC/Online Hearing Devices

There are many differences in technology, research, and development of traditional hearing aids and OTC devices. There is also a difference on the ability of the provider to be able to assist the patient in care and use.

See this for yourself!

  Online Hearing Aids and OTCs Hearing Aids From An Audiologist
Extensive choice of hearing aids No Yes
Able to buy a single hearing aid Not usually Yes
Audiologists that give you long-term care No Yes
Supply of batteries, filters, and domes Sometimes Yes
Professional hearing examination Online hearing test or none at all Comprehensive evaluation performed by an expert
Custom hearing aid fitting No Yes
Ongoing follow-up care and support Not usually but sometimes included as an online service Yes
Loaner hearing aids if yours need repairs No Yes

Think You Have A Hearing Loss That Needs Treatment?

If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing a hearing loss and would like more information about hearing tests and hearing treatment options, we’d love to help you begin your hearing journey.

As experts on every aspect of hearing, and with more than 35 years of providing expert hearing care to our community, we answer all your questions and treat you properly.

Start your journey to better hearing by scheduling a comprehensive hearing assessment and determine the best solution for you. We look forward to helping you in every way we can.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Jennifer G. Mayer purchased South Shore Hearing Center in January 2016. She was born and raised in Swampscott, MA. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing in 1996 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her Master’s degree in audiology from the Northeastern University in 1998. Dr. Mayer fulfilled her Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) in 1999 at Hear USA and Cape Cod Ear, Nose and Throat. Following her CFY, Dr. Mayer was a staff audiologist in various clinical settings, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She joined the South Shore Hearing Center staff in 2006. Dr. Mayer obtained her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree from the A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2008. Dr. Mayer’s specialties are diagnostic audiology, pediatric and adult amplification and educational audiology. Dr. Mayer is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Audiology and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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