Picture of earbuds


Technology has come a long way in recent years. Some even speculate that we might be flying in cars soon. It seems like we keep finding new ways to do just about everything.

And hearing aid technology is no exception. One of the most recent auditory inventions is the non-prescription earbud as an alternative to the hearing aid.

Let’s take a look at the difference between earbuds and hearing aids and how they compare.

What Are Non-Prescription Earbuds?

Over-the-counter earbuds, also known as non-prescription earbuds, are just what they sound like: Average-looking earbuds for people with hearing impairment. The idea is to get around the stigma surrounding hearing problems.

What Are Prescription Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids are tiny computerized mechanisms worn behind the ear to enhance the quality of sound a person is able to take in. They’re composed of a microphone, amplifier and speaker. The sound enters the microphone, is amplified to whichever level the wearer needs and then the speaker transmits the message to the wearer.

Hearing aids are prescription-only and are overseen by a qualified professional to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need for your individual case.

How Do They Compare?

Both non-prescription earbuds and prescription hearing aids have advantages and disadvantages.

Non-prescription Earbuds

The advantages of choosing earbuds over hearing aids include:

  • Easily accessible as an over-the-counter product
  • Cheaper than professional prescription hearing aids
  • Looks as if the wearer is simply enjoying music versus being hearing impaired
  • Don’t have to pay for a doctor’s visit or exam

The disadvantages of choosing earbuds over hearing aids include:

  • Not adequately researched nor are they FDA approved
  • Still so new that there is not enough research to determine long-term consequences
  • Because it’s not prescribed by a physician, there is no guarantee as to the long-term effects on hearing
  • You’re not being monitored by a qualified professional to catch any potential negative effects on hearing

Prescription Hearing Aids

The advantages of selecting Hearing Aids over earbuds include:

  • Extensively studied for quality and FDA approved
  • Your ear doctor is able to specially adjust these devices for your individual case so you don’t have to worry. You’re going to get exactly what you need.
  • Monitored by qualified professional to ensure your devices adapt to any hearing changes
  • The first hearing aid was invented in 1898, allowing for over a century of data on the long-term effects

The disadvantages of selecting hearing aids over earbuds include:

  • They can be expensive
  • Some models are visible to others
  • Require a doctor’s visit and exam

Are Earbuds a Viable Alternative to Hearing Aids?

While earbuds are cheaper and do address the stigma that may surround hearing impairment, there’s just not enough oversight to know the long-term implications for your hearing. Another major concern is that the use of earbuds is instead of hearing aids is lacking adequate research as to the long-term effects on your hearing.

The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your hearing devices are specially designed for you is unparalleled. We may see a time when the prescription hearing aid industry and the over-the-counter earbuds come together, but currently there are just not enough studies to back up the safety of patients in regards to choosing earbuds over prescription hearing aids.

In the same way that you wouldn’t considered getting non-prescription, over-the-counter eye glasses if you were near-sighted, why take the chance with their hearing device counterparts?

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