With so many options available on the market, it can be confusing knowing which hearing instrument is best for treating your needs.

While hearing aids are constantly being updated to fit the needs of every user, there is a new model that is being introduced to the market, which may potentially shape the industry.

Over-the-counter hearing aids (OTCs), also known as personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs), are a convenient hearing aid device, which can be purchased in your local store or pharmacy.

Compared to hearing aids, they are a great option for those who have little time on their hands.

But what are the real complications of OTC hearing aids compared to regular hearing aids?

A New Type of Device

While both devices have a range of benefits for each user, the main difference is that PSAP over-the-counter hearing aids are going to have basic volume levels, or one or two different volumes.

They are designed to make everything louder and work by increasing the whole frequency range. While in some cases this can be useful, it doesn’t address the issue directly, which only masks the underlying issue.

Often, we recommend a PSAP for someone who isn’t suited for hearing aids. For example, it could work for someone who is bedridden with dementia. In this circumstance, a family member may want a PSAP to be able to go and sit with them and talk freely.

On the other hand, hearing aids follow a different process, which works by making speech clearer and easier to translate. As hearing loss is often much more than just an inability to hear, hearing aids work by blurring out background noise and focusing on what’s directly in front of them, ensuring complete ease of conversation in social situations.

Generally, the fitting of a hearing aid requires a lot more feedback from the user, ensuring that your hearing aid works effectively for you.

When it comes to the fitting of PSAP hearing aids, they more or less follow a one-size-fits-all rule. The main purpose of PSAPs is that they can be worn by everyone, so most of the time, they are just placed inside of the ear and you hope for the best.

They Don’t Medically Treat Your Hearing Loss

If you’re looking for a device that will seriously make a difference in your life, PSAPs are not the silver bullet solution. In fact, they can often make your issues worse.

Whether it’s a buildup of wax, fluid, or an ear infection, the best way to address those issues is with a proper hearing assessment with an audiologist.

If you’re experiencing a hearing loss and you purchase a PSAP without a proper diagnosis, the likelihood is that the issue is only going to get worse.

It’s true that they have worked effectively for many people, but the long-term side effects of untreated hearing loss are far too dangerous, and it’s important that you take a look into the bigger problem and analyze what caused your hearing loss in the first place.

Hearing Aids Make You Smarter

Combined with the expertise of a licensed audiologist, hearing aids have been found to improve brain function and working memory through appropriate auditory stimulation.

Hearing loss, if untreated, can interfere with cognitive abilities, as there is so much effort going into understanding speech.

While OTCs work to make sound louder, they don’t have the capabilities to treat more complex disorders which require additional attention such as auditory processing disorder (APD).

The Key Takeaway About OTCs

It’s important to note that OTCs are purely amplification devices. They work for someone who wants an extra boost in certain situations such as bird watching or security staff.

When it comes to treating hearing loss, a comprehensive hearing assessment followed by the professional fitting of hearing aids is the best way to better your hearing.

It ensures that the health of your hearing is prioritized and allows an opportunity for you to raise any of your concerns, ensuring we can get to the direct root of the problem.

If you or a loved one wants to know more about the differences between OTCs and hearing aids, or simply wants advice on the options available, then you can get in touch with a member of our team here.

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Andrea Plotkowski, Au.D.

Our highly driven, highly qualified Audiologist Andrea attended Grand Valley University for her Bachelor’s degree before pursuing her Doctorate at Purdue University. In her short career of 3 years so far, we’re delighted she’s spent two of them here at PHC in our Parkwest practice. With a real desire to help people live more fulfilling lives with better hearing health, Andrea knew audiology was for her. Coming from a tiny town of just 10,000 people, Andrea is certainly a big fish in our pond!