Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aids became available in October 2022. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act was actually passed five years prior, but it took time for regulations to take effect. Now OTC hearing aids can be purchased online by anyone with mild to moderate hearing loss who is 18 years of age or older.
What are OTC Hearing Aids?
OTC hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the FDA and do not require a prescription, hearing exam, hearing test, medical exam, or doctor’s appointment. They are intended for those with mild to moderate hearing loss to help improve hearing. After purchasing the hearing aids online, you’ll fit the hearing aids yourself and follow the instructions for how to use them. You’ll also be able to adjust the volume to the appropriate level that is best for your hearing needs.
The process of fitting OTC hearing aids in your ears will differ based on the brand you choose. With Nano OTC hearing aids, for example, you simply select the appropriate dome size for your ears, turn them on and insert them. Keep in mind that it can take a few days to weeks for your ears and brain to adapt to hearing aids. Initially, it might feel a bit unusual, but this sensation will gradually subside, and you'll feel comfortable wearing them.
Where To Purchase OTC Hearing Aids
You can purchase OTC hearing aids online or in person at retail stores. However, when you buy OTC hearing aids online, you’ll have access to more affordable prices, be able to read reviews about each product you’re considering, and shop any time of day. Shopping online for your hearing aids also provides you with a wider selection compared to retail stores.
Are OTC Hearing Aids Right For You?
If you experience any of the below, you might have mild to moderate hearing loss and therefore benefit from OTC hearing aids.
- Trouble hearing conversations in noisy places
- Finding it difficult to follow conversations and hear people in group settings
- Difficulty hearing someone on the phone
- Feeling tired from listening
- Needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, even if others say that it’s loud
It’s important to note OTC hearing aids are not intended for those with severe hearing loss. These symptoms typically involve difficulty hearing conversations (even when the surrounding environment is quiet) and difficulty hearing loud noises. If you aren’t sure whether your hearing is moderate or severe, consider scheduling an appointment with your primary physician.
Benefits & What To Look For in OTC Hearing Aids
OTC hearing aids can provide many benefits to users, but the advantages vary depending specifically on which brand you select. Here’s what to look for when considering purchasing OTC hearing aids:
One of the biggest benefits of OTC hearing aids is how affordable they can be, eliminating the need to spend thousands of dollars on prescription hearing aids. Look for ones that are less than $600.
FDA Registered, Class I
Some hearing aids are associated with potential risks including harming the ears, causing a ringing in the ears, and over-amplifying sound. Hearing aids that are FDA Registered and Class I means they have the least amount of risk and are generally safe for use (compared to other hearing aid devices with a different classification).
Unlike many prescription hearing aids, OTC hearing aids can have a sleek design that makes them nearly invisible.
Easy to Use & Rechargeable
OTC hearing aids should be very easy to use and come with clear instructions for how to get started. They should also be rechargeable and provide a long-lasting battery life.
Background Noise Reduction
OTC hearing aids with background noise reduction technology reduce background noise and make it possible to hear speech more accurately.
Customizable Ear Tips
When an OTC hearing aid comes with multiple dome sizes, it’s more likely you’ll find a size that is very comfortable for your ear.
What is the Difference Between OTC Hearing Aids and Hearing Amplifiers?
OTC hearing aids are sometimes confused with hearing amplifiers, but they are not the same. OTC hearing aids are designed to amplify sound for those with mild to moderate hearing loss and are regulated by the FDA to meet specific safety and performance standards. Hearing amplifiers, also known as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), are not regulated as medical devices and are not intended to treat hearing loss.