Prescription Hearing Aids vs. OTC Hearing Aids

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Prescription Hearing Aids Vs OTC Hearing Aids

In October 2021, following President Biden’s Executive Order in July, the FDA released its proposed regulations for selling over-the-counter hearing aids. The goal of making these available through retail outlets is to make hearing aids more accessible and affordable to anyone with a hearing loss.

Now that there are, essentially, two types of hearing aids available, a new term is being used to differentiate them.

  • A prescription hearing aid is the newer term for traditional hearing aids. They are prescribed, programed, and fit by an audiologist.
  • A hearing aid or over-the counter (OTC) hearing aid refers to a hearing aid you can buy either online or at a store.

There are some key differences to the two types, which I will go into below.

“Prescription Hearing Aids” As A Hearing Healthcare Term

There has been so much chatter about what may or may not be coming to the hearing aid market that much of it is misinformation. The new term should help clear this up.

Calling what we have historically just called “hearing aids” “prescription hearing aids” helps consumers know if they must self-diagnose and self-treat a hearing loss or if they can count on the expert knowledge, advice, and support of an audiologist.

An audiologist is the only professional that can diagnose a hearing loss. The audiologist can then recommend or “prescribe” the appropriate type of hearing aid or treatment that is best suited for each patient.

Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids And OTC Hearing Aids

The main difference between prescription hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids is in how the hearing aids will treat your exact hearing deficiencies and lifestyle.

  • Prescription hearing aids – can be fit to all levels of hearing loss, whereas over-the-counter hearing aids are for mild to moderate hearing loss only. An audiologist can help program and fine-tune prescription hearing aids to better suit your hearing needs.
  • An over-the-counter hearing aid – does not involve professional care at all.

The second most glaring difference is where you can obtain them from.

  • Buy from an audiologist – A prescription hearing aid is recommended or prescribed by a licensed audiologist based upon the results of your diagnostic audiological evaluation.
  • Buy anywhere – An over-the-counter hearing aid can be purchased at many different retail settings, with no documentation of hearing loss or advice from a hearing healthcare professional.

If you compare it to treating poor eyesight, buying OTC hearing aids is similar to buying reading glasses at a grocery or hardware store off a generic rack whereas buying prescription hearing aids is similar to going to an ophthalmologist and getting glasses made that specifically address your eyesight needs.

Prescription Hearing Aids Or OTC – Which Are Better For You?

The only way to know if you really need prescription or over-the-counter hearing aids is to have a professional full diagnostic evaluation. This will provide a diagnosis and measure your degree of hearing loss.

With these results, we can tell you if all you need is a little amplification with an OTC hearing aid or if your hearing requires a more specialized program that strengthens all the weaker aspects of your hearing – only available with a prescription hearing aid.

Audiological Evaluation vs. Online Hearing Test

A diagnostic audiological evaluation should always be performed before treating any hearing loss. This is the only way to diagnose hearing loss for type and degree.

Online hearing tests cannot provide an accurate diagnosis. The only professional that is licensed to diagnose a hearing loss is an audiologist.

Still Unsure Or Confused?

Come and have a conversation with me. I can help guide you to the right solution for your needs. We will help you understand the differences and help you make the best decision for you.

Our goal is to help everyone hear the best they can, and we will do that for you and your loved ones if you give us the opportunity. Our team includes six doctors of audiology in modern clinics in both Weymouth and Hanover, for your convenience.

Schedule a diagnostic hearing assessment at the South Shore location nearest you, and please feel free to call us with any questions about hearing loss and treatment. We’re here to help!

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Alicia L. O'Sullivan, Au.D.

Alicia grew up in Abington, Massachusetts and went to Abington High School. She went to Bridgewater State College for her bachelor’s degree in special education, concentrating in communication disorders, before finishing her education at the University of Connecticut for her Au.D. With a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, Alicia has been getting her hearing tested since childhood. As someone who is aware of the side effects of hearing loss firsthand, she was initially interested in working in special education. However, due to her history of hearing loss, she soon fell in love with the science of audiology.

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