What Is OTC (Over The Counter) And Why Is It Good For Hearing Care?

01/11/2022 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

In my world, over-the-counter hearing aids, or personal sound amplifiers, have been around for years. This is nothing new in the hearing industry.

The only new thing is the publicity that’s been generated. You’ve always been able to go to your local pharmacy and pick up a sound amplifier.

What’s been happening over the last three or four years is that we have been waiting for the government to pass clear guidelines on what an OTC should be and what it should look like to make it safer for the consumer.

Differences Between OTC And Prescribed Hearing Aids

As far as the big box stores are concerned, they’ve got some good packaging, but really, it’s a self-fitting device.

As a consumer, you must be the one to learn how to use it – its components, its pieces, how to put it on, how to take care of it, how to maintain it, and then adjust it yourself and hope that you get close enough that you’re getting the benefit.

The biggest challenge that I’ve heard from patients that I’ve seen in my clinic is the sound quality.

Many of them have this staticky white noise sound to them, and many of them don’t have a lot of adjustments. For some of them, you’d have apps on your phone to where you can make slight adjustments, and I’ve tried to help people with that, but it’s challenging considering their current limits.

They’re just very hard to adjust. If you get it out of the box and put it on your ear, what you get is what you get. For some people, it works, but it does not work for a lot of people.

It just depends, but in my world, I’m here to help. So, if you have one, I definitely can schedule an appointment, and I’ll spend time with you reviewing the pros and cons and seeing what we can do to make it sound better.

Ultimately, I look at this as very similar to cheater glasses. They’re there to give you a little bit of help, but we’re not going to look for perfection. And when you’re ready to get the real McCoy, you can come in, and I will help you find the best option.

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Are OTCs A Good Thing?

In my opinion, OTCs are good. I think that makes me not the norm within the community.

I am all about access. I’m about affordable care.

For some people, OTCs provide some type of help, and it gets them in the game, and it gets them hearing just a little bit better. It may not be perfect. We’re not looking for perfection. We’re just looking for a little bit of amplification to help them overcome.

Then when that person’s ready, I will be here to help them hear at the absolute best that they possibly can hear.

If we’re assuming that these over-the-counter devices are not doing damage to the person’s hearing, then I think they’re a good think.

But, that is one of the concerns right now; it’s the wild, wild West. There are just no regulations. Somebody could potentially be doing additional damage to their hearing.

Let’s assume that they’re not, and they’re getting minimal amplification. At least we are stimulating their nerve because if we’re not stimulating that nerve from the ear to the brain, that nerve starts to die off. We know that.

To me, any amplification, even if it’s under, is going to be helping preserve that nerve.

That way, when they come to me, they haven’t waited too long – because there are people that wait too long and then even I can’t help them. So, OTCs are a good thing.

Where Can You Get More Answers Regarding Specific OTCs?

If you have more questions or need clarification about specific products, then please call us anytime. We are always standing by to help in any way we can.

If you’re thinking about getting an OTC, then please come in for a comprehensive hearing assessment first. This will provide you with the information you’ll need to find the best device for you.

We are ready to help everyone in Lawrenceburg get the hearing they deserve.

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Erica 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.

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