If you noticed that you seemed to not be hearing as well as you used to, what would you do? If the issue were noticeable and risked interfering with your normal quality of life, you would probably decide to schedule an appointment with an audiologist. After all, you trust an audiologist to be able to test your hearing, make a diagnosis of whether you are experiencing hearing loss, and if so, fit you with a device like a hearing aid.
However, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids will be available in the United States for the first time in 2020. This means that, if you want to, you could simply go to a pharmacy or a big box store to purchase a hearing aid that you would select yourself. You would not need to see an audiologist to have your hearing tested or to receive a hearing aid.
The concept of OTC hearing aids is the same as OTC eyeglasses. You have probably noticed that some eyeglasses are available for purchase in pharmacies and other stores with no need for a prescription or recommendation from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In fact, you may have purchased these OTC eyeglasses yourself! In much the same way that you can now try on different eyeglasses until you find a pair that seems to match your needs, you will soon be able to fit yourself with a hearing aid to a level of perceived improvement.
But would you really want to bypass a medical professional in the name of convenience? The truth is that an inappropriate hearing device is just as detrimental as no hearing device. You should not risk your hearing for the sake of convenience or affordability. In addition, OTC hearing aids are only intended to treat mild to moderate hearing loss. If you have moderate to severe hearing loss, you will still need to see an audiologist to have your hearing ability assessed and a proper hearing device fitted.
Just as you would currently decide to visit an audiologist if you perceived hearing loss, we recommend that you continue this same practice even after over-the-counter hearing aids become available. Audiologists receive extensive education (at the doctoral level) and training that enables them to properly evaluate your hearing ability, diagnose any hearing problems, and recommend an appropriate treatment or device. Even if your audiologist’s recommendation is to seek an OTC hearing aid, you will be armed with specific, individualized information about your hearing ability and the best device options for your needs.
Many audiologists may also choose to offer OTC hearing aids right in their office. If you are considering an OTC hearing aid because of the convenience, imagine how convenient this arrangement will be! You would be able to visit your audiologist for an appointment, receive a professional evaluation, and immediately find the OTC device that fits your needs.
Over-the-counter hearing aids promise to bring a new age to audiology – one in which it is more convenient and affordable for more people to access hearing devices. With the help of audiologists, this is an exciting time to ensure that your hearing is being taken care of. For more information about OTC hearing aids and the services our audiologist provides, we invite you to contact our practice today.