OTC vs. Self-Fitting vs. Prescription Hearing Aids | The Flex Audiology Show #2

09/13/2022 | Flex Audiology Show, Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

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In this week’s episode of the Flex Audiology Show, we’re going to explore the differences between over-the-counter hearing aids, self-fitting hearing aids, and prescription hearing aids.

Prefer to listen than read? Watch the video below. If not, read on…

Firstly, let’s start with over-the-counter hearing aids.

What Are Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids?

Back in 2017, the Trump administration issued the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act.

If you’ve ever looked online, you’ll notice that there are thousands of options available for over-the-counter devices. They’ve been heavily marketed as sound amplification for those with “normal hearing.”

However, this is where the problem lies.

In this market, there’s no regulation, which means that there is no understanding of what hearing loss you are suffering with or whether these types of devices are going to be a good fit for you.

The Trump administration worked to enforce safety parameters for consumers, as well as to create innovation in the industry.

A lot of consumers felt that the entry point into prescription hearing aids is difficult, and over-the-counter hearing aids provide an option for those who are unable to access appropriate technology.

With that said, the FDA had three years to establish guidelines for consumers. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, which pushed back the progress of this act.

Recently, the Biden administration pushed an executive order for the FDA to come up with a solution too.

This was also open for public comment and, up to now, they are currently reviewing the feedback.

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What Are Self-Fitting Devices?

During this time of approval, few manufacturers released a type of self-fitting device, which gained approval from the FDA.

This is a device that requires the user to perform measurements and fine-tuning without a medical expert present.

Although over-the-counter devices and self-fitting devices have similarities, the crossovers between the regulations remain uncertain

But What Does This Mean For The Consumer?

Most over-the-counter hearing aids are going to be enforced as out-of-the-box devices, which are self-fitted by the individual.

The drawbacks that I’ve heard from many of my patients include whistling and poor sound quality, which can sound crackly or distorted.

Prices vary for over-the-counter hearing aids. In this instance, however, price doesn’t necessarily mean better quality.

Two manufacturers that are competing against each other include:

#1 – The Bose Sound Control

  • Direct to consumer
  • App incorporated
  • Self-fitting
  • Looks more like traditional hearing aids
  • Battery operated

#2 – Jabra Enhance Plus

  • Sold only through private hearing healthcare clinics (we received training to be able to offer this type of device to patients)
  • Medical evaluation required
  • Self-fitting
  • Looks like a traditional earbud
  • Rechargeable, Bluetooth compatible

What Are Prescription Hearing Aids?

Prescription hearing aids are FDA medically prescribed devices.

After we conduct a hearing assessment, we will program your hearing aids based on the results. Then, we also use a system called live speech mapping or real ear measurements to verify the sounds omitted from the hearing aids.

We will go through care and maintenance, as well as fit your hearing aids for you.

In this approach, it’s much more involved and extensive, and the outcomes are great.

How Do I Know Which Device Is Right For Me?

If you have recently noticed a change in your hearing, then the next step is to schedule a hearing assessment with one of our experts.

Whether you have a mild to severe hearing loss, our experts can comprehensively test your hearing and point you in the right direction.

Alternatively, just give us a call at (812) 532-2011 and we’ll be happy to chat.

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Dr. Person Au.D, CCC-A

Dr. Person has been a private practice owner since 2005. She currently specializes in hearing aids, tinnitus management and vestibular diagnostics, while operating in an unbundled service delivery model. Dr. Person is the host of The Unbundled Audiologist podcast. She serves as the incoming VP of Audiology for ISHA for a three year term. Her greatest accomplishment is creating a life where she can serve others while still spending quality time with her husband and two small children.