What are OTC hearing aids explained by Dr. Bridget Garrido

What Are OTC (Over-The-Counter) Hearing Aids?

by | Jun 28, 2021 | Hearing aids, Industry News, Patient Resources, Technology

The internet has provided individuals with a unique opportunity to deepen their understanding of a wide variety of subjects, including hearing loss and hearing devices.

Where a better understanding of these topics is beneficial, many also use the hearing tests provided and the information they glean to self-diagnose their condition and self-treat it with over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

Although the Acadian Hearing team and I encourage those in Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana who suspect they have a hearing problem to educate themselves on hearing loss and hearing aids, we must raise your awareness of OTC hearing aids, as professionals, and explain why they might not be the best solution for your hearing challenges.

What Are OTC Hearing Aids?

The term over-the-counter hearing aids include any hearing instrument or a hearing aid that a patient purchases for themselves, without any input from a doctor of audiology or hearing healthcare professional.

A common OTC hearing aid purchase begins with an online hearing test, which encourages the individual to purchase a hearing product that is shipped directly to them from a third party.

How do otc hearing aids differ from doctor prescribed hearing aids?

The difference between OTC hearing aids and doctor prescribed hearing aids can be broken down into three main categories: questionable testing accuracy, gain, and output capacity, and device programming.

Questionable Testing Accuracy

A hearing assessment conducted by a hearing care professional not only identifies the type and severity of your hearing loss but also provides the information necessary to design the best hearing care solution to address your specific hearing loss.

Unlike a professional hearing assessment conducted in a controlled environment, user error, the environment where the test is conducted, and various other factors affect the accuracy of an online hearing test.

Although an online test can identify some hearing challenges, an accurate diagnosis requires a physical examination of your ears and additional information not addressed during an online hearing test.

Gain And Output Capacity

Hearing aid output relates to the overall sound pressure level (measured in dB) produced by the device, while gain defines the amount the device adds or the difference between the level of input and level of output.

At frequencies where your hearing is deficient, a hearing aid is used to produce additional gain while reducing gain at frequencies you hear well.

OTC hearing aids have limited gain and output capacities, which only address hearing loss in the mild to moderate range.

Consequently, an OTC hearing aid might not provide sufficient gain and/or output to address your hearing deficiency if you are experiencing a moderate to severe hearing loss.

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Device Programming

Programming a hearing device to meet the specific levels of hearing loss at various frequencies is an essential element in accurately addressing your hearing needs.

When you begin with questionable testing accuracy and only have access to limited gain and output capacity, programming an OTC hearing aid to meet your hearing needs is hit or miss at best.

In addition to the higher level of accuracy provided by professional hearing tests, professional hearing aid programming includes monitoring by a hearing instrument specialist to prevent damage to your hearing. This ongoing care, and the safeguards it provides, are absent with the purchase of OTC hearing aids. 

Acadian Hearing Encourages Professional Hearing Assessments

We applaud your desire to educate yourself or a loved one regarding hearing loss and hearing aids, as well as your efforts to determine if you might be experiencing a hearing loss by taking an online test.

The team and I at Acadian Hearing want to encourage you to use the information you’ve gathered to motivate you to seek the professional hearing care available from a doctor of audiology rather than pursuing self-treatment with an OTC hearing aid.

If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing challenges or an online test result indicates hearing loss, contact us to schedule a professional hearing assessment at the Lake Charles hearing clinic nearest you.

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Dr. Bridget B. Garrido, Au.D.

Dr. Garrido joined the Acadian Hearing & Speech Services team in 1994. She received her doctorate of audiology from Salus University in Elkins Park, PA, a master’s degree in communication disorders from LSU Medical Center in New Orleans, and an undergraduate degree from LSU Baton Rouge. Dr. Garrido is certified nationally from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and holds Louisiana state licensure.