“Hearing aids” used to be the go-to term used for what we know as a hearing treatment device, but no more; because in October 2021, the FDA released its proposed regulations for selling hearing aids in stores and online.

The motivation behind this is laudable — to make it easier for people with a hearing loss to treat it without the prohibitive cost or difficulties getting access to a local hearing specialist — and it’s what encouraged President Biden’s Executive Order for it last July.

So now we have two terms for hearing aids.

  • Hearing aids prescribed and fitted by an audiologist or hearing specialist will now be termed “prescription hearing aids.”
  • Hearing aids sold online or in retail stores will be called “hearing aids.”

The Need To Differentiate Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Aids

There is certainly a need to differentiate hearing devices because to most people, there is no significant difference between hearing aids that you purchase over the counter or online to those purchased from a hearing specialist.

The word “prescription” is understood to be a treatment ordered by a doctor, so it makes sense that this would be the most appropriate word to use for hearing devices that are prescribed, individually programmed, and fit by an audiologist or hearing aid specialist.

Over-the-counter (OTC) or online-bought hearing aids will just be called hearing aids because they are bought without any input from a hearing professional and are basically a form of short-term self-treatment.

The Key Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids And OTC Hearing Aids

The differences between the two types of hearing aids are significant.

Store- or online-bought hearing aids:

  • For adults 18 and older with a “perceived” mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Children cannot legally wear OTC devices, only prescription hearing aids.
  • No hearing test is needed.
  • No medical exam is needed to determine the cause of hearing loss or medical conditions connected to the hearing loss, such as earwax, ear infection, etc.

One of the biggest dangers of treating your perceived hearing loss with store-bought hearing aids is that you can set the amplification too high and further damage your hearing permanently.

Prescription hearing aids:

  • Require a hearing examination, which will assist in determining the cause of hearing loss and if any medical condition requires further care.
  • For people with any degree of hearing loss.
  • Hearing aids are custom fit to a person’s ear, considering ear shape and sizing.
  • Hearing aids are prescriptively programmed for a specific hearing loss instead of a generic volume increase.
  • Must be used with children.

Prescription hearing aids are set to match every aspect of your hearing needs found in your hearing test results. They will be programed and adjusted over the next three to five years by your hearing professional, ensuring your hearing is optimized and cared for exceptionally well.

The First Step To Knowing Which Hearing Aids To Buy

In my experience, you don’t know a whole lot about your hearing until you’ve had a thorough hearing exam. How do you know if you have wax that is causing your hearing problem? How do you know if there is a medical problem that needs to be urgently assessed?

I liken it to reading glasses versus prescription glasses.

I’ve worn prescription glasses or contact lenses since I was a child. Reading glasses would NEVER have worked for me.

I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t had a vision exam in person at the optometry office. Thorough, diagnostic vision exams are important for me to see at my absolute best.

On the other hand, my husband only needs reading glasses. He still gets a thorough vision examination to make sure that his eyes are healthy and is then guided to what type of reading glasses will work best for him.

Get a hearing exam in a sound-treated room first by a specialist, and then prescription versus over-the-counter devices can be discussed with the best knowledge at hand.

Have Questions About Prescription Hearing Aids?

Come see us! No one will ever regret getting more information or a thorough hearing examination. Your ears and hearing health are important!

If you are worried that by visiting a hearing care professional you’ll be strong-armed into an expensive hearing aid that you weren’t wanting, you will be pleasantly surprised with us.

We have many resources available for those who need prescription hearing aids but are unable to afford them. Hearing examinations are covered by most insurances, and the consultation is most often included. So, what do you have to lose?

Book your hearing test today, and please feel free to request a callback so we can answer any questions you have. We’re looking forward to helping you.

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Dr. Heidi J Sorrells - Audiologist

Dr. Heidi J. Sorrells obtained her doctorate degree from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. She is a certified audiologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and she holds a Louisiana and a Texas audiology license. Dr. Sorrells enjoys all aspects of working in a private practice audiology clinic but especially loves the challenges of vestibular (balance) assessment and rehabilitation.