The Downside of OTC Hearing Aids

People with hearing loss are drawn to the concept of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, Internet hearing aids, and big box store hearing aids, because of the possibility of lower costs. Since Medicare does not provide coverage for hearing aids, cost is an important consideration. For some it is the only consideration, leading to a multitude of problems.

OTC hearing aids will become available to those with mild to medium hearing loss in approximately 3 years. What many people do not realize is that there is more to a hearing aid than just amplification of sounds and price. Hearing perception has its variables and these differ from individual to individual. Fitting identical hearing aids on people with identical hearing test results yields varying degrees of satisfaction and success. 

Enid Smith, an audiologist and owner of Discount Hearing Aids in Livingston, explains, “There is the rehabilitative aspect. An audiologist optimizes a patient’s hearing to the best of the patient’s ability and potential. Sound is complicated. Brains are complicated. Perception of sound is unique from individual to individual.”

Audiologists are trained to choose a device that matches the lifestyle and needs of the patient, fitting and programming it, and providing support services. Smith adds, “Buying hearing aids is not like buying a TV set. Hearing aids require a lot of service and support. With time, we know the brain deals with sounds differently and we need to adjust the aids as the brain changes.” Without expert support and appropriate rehabilitation and counseling, only a few will be lucky enough to hear optimally from non-professionally fit hearing aids. 

OTC hearing aids are not without merit. However, they are not the best choice to guarantee optimal hearing. Smith says, “Inexpensive reading glasses have their place, but there are millions who need the services of optometrists to customize a script.” So, sure, try OTC aids when they become available–but if they fail to deliver, do not assume hearing aids are not going to help you. See your local expert and let them use their years of training, knowledge and experience to help you reach your hearing potential. 


2 W. Northfield Road, Livingston

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01 Sep 2019

By Cynthia Burns