What Are Prescription Hearing Aids And How Are They Different To Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids?

2022-02-17 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

What Are Prescription Hearing Aids And How Are They Different To Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids?

With many new developments within the hearing industry surrounding technology and hearing healthcare, it can be confusing to know where to start on your journey to better hearing.

In October 2021, President Biden issued an executive order that allows companies to sell over-the-counter hearing devices to anyone. This is an effort to make healthy hearing more readily available to the public.

While we applaud the president for taking action and recognizing how important hearing is, we also have some concerns about this new initiative.

I want to clarify what this means and explain the exact differences between these new over-the-counter products and professionally prescribed hearing aids.

Why Is The Term ‘Prescription Hearing Aid’ Popping Up Now?

Until recently, all hearing aids were prescription. Now that over-the-counter hearing devices are available, it allows companies, such as Bose, Apple, and Samsung, to blur the line between a hearing aid and an over-the-counter device.

We want everyone in Southern Louisiana to know there is a massive difference between the two.

A prescription hearing aid is a top-of-the-line piece of technology that has helped millions of people regain their hearing. For those with any kind of hearing loss, a prescription hearing aid will help you.

Key Differences Between Them

Having OTCs available will benefit some, but this is a small group. Similar to reading glasses vs. prescription glasses, they are for a very specific condition.

Prescription Hearing Aids

  • An advanced piece of technology with different settings to assist many different hearing conditions
  • Able to help when there is background noise present
  • Connects to smartphones and smart TVs for perfect volume
  • Custom fitting options
  • Uses data collected from your personal hearing test
  • Ongoing adjustment and care from a professional audiologist
  • Can be acquired through many insurance programs

Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices

  • Can be purchased at your local pharmacy or online and delivered through the mail
  • Does not require a hearing test or recommendation from a professional
  • Must perform the fitting yourself
  • Limited or no aftercare
  • Only suited for those with a mild hearing loss, as there are no settings to adjust
  • Usually more inexpensive
Determining Which Hearing Device Is Right For You

How Do I Know Which One I Need?

Even though OTCs do not require a test before purchasing, we strongly recommend it. Without a test, you won’t know why you hear the way you do. Your issue may not benefit from a prescription hearing aid or an OTC.

A patient who has impacted wax can experience a temporary hearing loss. The solution is to remove the excess earwax to restore their hearing. Purchasing an OTC or prescription hearing aid would not help. Only a comprehensive hearing assessment will tell us that.

After your test, we may recommend an OTC for you. We are familiar with all products that assist with hearing, and one of them may be right for you. We will only know after the hearing test.

Are Online Tests Accurate?

Online hearing tests may be more convenient than visiting us in the office, but seeing an audiologist in person is the only way to ensure your results are highly accurate and reliable.

This is vitally important when you consider that the programming of the hearing aid is based on your test results. Online tests are also limiting due to:

  • Often getting incomplete/inadequate medical and physical history
  • No physical examination of ear canals (excessive earwax, narrow ear canals, middle ear fluid, drainage, and/or bleeding from the ear canal)
  • Only test “air-conduction,” which determines how much hearing loss is present, not where along the auditory system the hearing loss is occurring
  • Unable to control or account for ambient noise in the room or the quality of headphones/speakers used. Even the low-frequency noise from the computer’s fan can be enough to affect hearing results.

At SLENT Hearing and Balance Center, we provide comprehensive hearing assessments. We measure all aspects of your hearing, including physical health. To truly get an accurate assessment of your hearing capability, schedule a hearing assessment with us, and we’ll find out.

Only after the test can we make an accurate and positive plan for your hearing future.

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

Dr. JJ Martinez, AuD, FAAA

J.J. was born in Wichita, KS, and was brought up in a Marine Corps family. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Marine Corps after high school and was stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC. After going to college at Southeastern Louisiana University, he went to graduate school and got his doctorate degree from Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, LA. Soon after, he started his career in audiology and became board certified in Audiology.


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