Over-the-counter hearing aids are devices that have been made available for consumers to purchase on their own.

These are in the category of devices called personal sound amplifier products, or PSAPs, which essentially means that they are just amplifiers that increase the volume.

You may have seen them advertised in your local store or nearby pharmacy, as they have now been made readily available to the public, allowing them to be more customizable to the customer.

Just recently, the FDA passed a law that has meant they will become a new category. This means that they will become a self-fitting device, ensuring that they are safe and effective for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Since then, certain standards have been set to help buyers understand OTC hearing aids, including warnings on the packaging and other information you should know before purchasing them.

What Are OTC Hearing Aids For?

OTC hearing aids are intended to help those with mild to moderate hearing loss. If you think you suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, here are some examples of the things you should be looking out for:

  • Difficulty understanding others in group situations or noisy environments
  • Constantly asking others to repeat themselves or talk louder
  • Difficulty understanding speech/sounds muffled

How Do They Work?

OTCs can be a very convenient way for consumers to receive a hearing aid without directly visiting a health professional. For those who don’t have the time to visit a hearing healthcare clinic, they’re a perfect solution.

Although they do look very similar to normal hearing aids, they do not employ the same technology nor effectively treat hearing loss the same way.

While hearing aids improve the overall quality of sound, OTCs work by amplifying the sound in certain environments to mimic what those with normal hearing hear. They are not intended to directly treat hearing loss, as they only include very minimal features.

As OTCs are becoming easier to access, many people are at risk of purchasing an OTC without a proper diagnosis.

Unfortunately, we see this very often, and there is no doubt that a large fraction of the public wears a hearing instrument that is not suited to their medical needs.

Over the next 5 years, we expect that there will be a small portion of the market that goes for these devices instead of properly looking into the different options available. 

Who Are They For?

Anyone can access an OTC hearing aid device. The nature of these devices cuts out the middleman, an audiologist, making them unregulated and unapproved.

For someone who struggles with a hearing loss, OTCs are not the answer. The FDA states that their use is only for those with normal hearing who want to enhance their hearing in certain situations such as bird watching.

While they may be effective for those who are very tech-savvy on their own, the vast majority of people will benefit from a properly fitted hearing aid, which an OTC lacks.

Addressing Your Hearing Loss  

If you or a loved one wants to know more about OTCs and the different options available, then a member of our team will be happy to clarify anything for you.

At PHC Tennessee, we make hearing care our number one priority for our local residents.

The internet can be a confusing place, and it’s hard to navigate through masses of technical jargon. Using our expertise and compassion, we would be happy to break down any myths and misconceptions you have around OTCs and treating hearing loss.

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

Andrea Plotkowski, Au.D.

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!