One of the most common treatments for many cases of hearing loss is a hearing aid. Due to the expense of the device, many people who suffer from some form of hearing loss may begin to consider alternatives, like over-the-counter, or OTC, hearing aids.

However, there is considerable concern about whether these readily available devices can do more harm than good.

Background on the Issue

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, has begun conferring with hearing experts and organizations regarding regulation for over-the-counter hearing aids. The agency currently recognizes and regulates two categories of hearing devices: personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs and hearing aids. PSAPs are wearable electronic devices intended for use by individuals with no hearing deficiencies who want to enhance their hearing in specific environments. Hearing aids are defined as wearable devices that can compensate for reduced hearing. As Class 1 medical devices, hearing aids are significantly regulated and are produced by six leading manufacturers to meet specific quality standards, which has resulted in high prices.

Until December of 2016, individuals who wanted to purchase a hearing aid were required to sign a waiver or undergo a medical evaluation. Once that restriction was reversed, interest in using OTC hearing aids has risen.

Risks Associated with OTC Hearing Aids

One of the main concerns hearing care professionals have with the use of OTC hearing aids is that individuals suffering from hearing loss will diagnose themselves and determine on their own the treatment. Specialists believe that without having a proper hearing evaluation, conditions that should be professional would go undetected. This is a troubling thought because these symptoms may be a key identifier of a potentially fatal medical condition.

Another concern hearing care professionals have is that the people who use the OTC hearing aids may not properly fit or adjust their devices. While this sounds insignificant, it could result in ill-fitted and possibly painful hearing aids that do not provide adequate hearing help for their user. As a side effect, this may result in a reluctance to use the devices. Without proper hearing aids, these individuals will endure the countless negative impacts hearing loss has on their lives. In short, these OTC devices will be useless in helping patients live well.

The Arguments for OTC Hearing Aids

It is typically seven years between the time when an individual suspects that they have a hearing problem and the point at which they seek assistance with a hearing aid. Proponents of OTC hearing aids believe that the low cost of the devices will encourage hearing loss sufferers into wear hearing aids much sooner than they would otherwise, improving their quality of life. They also state that the life-threatening health conditions that may have hearing loss as a side effect also have other symptoms that would compel individuals to seek medical help.

It can also be argued that wearing the OTC hearing aid may be the first step in a hearing loss sufferer’s journey to professional hearing healthcare. However, these amplification devices can do additional damage to the wearer’s hearing. This happens because the device is not adequately adjusted and merely increasing the volume of everything, including already loud sounds. This ultimately will result in the user needing a hearing device that is professionally fitted. So how did the OTC hearing aid help?

If you’re serious about overcoming your hearing loss, you need the right type of hearing care treatment. Speak with a hearing care professional to get the care that you need.