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Everything You Need to Know About OTC Hearing Aids

Everything You Need to Know About OTC Hearing Aids

Apria Editorial |

Are you struggling to hear conversations, TV shows, or phone calls? Do you often ask people to repeat themselves or speak louder? If so, you might have mild to moderate hearing loss. Hearing loss is a common condition that affects millions of Americans, especially older adults. It can impact your quality of life, your mental health, and your social interactions.

Fortunately, there is a solution: hearing aids. Hearing aids are devices that amplify sound and help you hear better in different environments. They can also prevent further deterioration of your hearing and protect your brain function.

However, hearing aids are not cheap. The average cost of a pair of prescription hearing aids in the US is around $4,700, according to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Many people cannot afford this price or do not have insurance coverage for hearing aids.

That's why over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a game-changer. OTC hearing aids are hearing devices that you can buy without a prescription, a medical exam, or a professional fitting. They are designed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss who want an affordable and accessible option.

What are OTC hearing aids and how do they work?

OTC hearing aids are medical devices that amplify sound for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. They are similar to prescription hearing aids in terms of functionality, but they differ in terms of regulation, availability, and customization.

These devices became legal in October 2022, when the FDA issued a new rule that allows them to be sold directly to consumers without a prescription or a fitting by an audiologist. The FDA also established safety and performance standards for OTC hearing aids to ensure their quality and effectiveness.

An OTC hearing aid works by picking up sound waves through a microphone, converting them into electrical signals, amplifying them through an amplifier, and delivering them to the ear through a speaker. Most OTC hearing aids are digital, which means they can process sound signals and adjust them according to different settings and preferences.

OTC hearing aids come in different styles and sizes, such as behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), in-the-canal (ITC), or completely-in-the-canal (CIC). They also have different features and technologies, and you can get OTC hearing aids with Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable batteries, noise reduction, feedback cancellation, directional microphones, or tinnitus masking.

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What are the benefits and drawbacks of OTC hearing aids?

The best OTC hearing aids have several advantages over prescription hearing aids, such as:

Lower cost: OTC hearing aids are much cheaper than prescription hearing aids. The average price of a pair of OTC hearing aids is around $1,000, according to Consumer Reports. Some models can cost as low as $100 or as high as $3,000.

Greater accessibility: OTC hearing aids are easier to obtain than prescription hearing aids. You can buy them online or in stores without having to visit an audiologist or get a medical exam. You can also get them delivered to your door within days.

More convenience: OTC hearing aids are simpler to use than prescription hearing aids. You can adjust them yourself using an app or buttons on the device. You can also try different models and brands until you find the one that suits you best.

More choice: OTC hearing aids offer more variety than prescription hearing aids. You can choose from different styles, sizes, colors, features, and technologies that match your preferences and needs.

However, OTC hearing aids also have some drawbacks that you should be aware of, such as:

Limited suitability: OTC hearing aids are only suitable for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. They cannot treat severe or profound hearing loss or other types of ear problems. You should consult an audiologist before buying an OTC hearing aid to determine your level and type of hearing loss and rule out any medical conditions that may require treatment.

Less personalization: OTC hearing aids are less personalized than prescription hearing aids. They do not take into account your individual hearing profile, ear anatomy, or lifestyle. They may not fit your ears properly or provide optimal sound quality. You may need to experiment with different settings and programs to find the best one for you.

Less support: OTC hearing aids come with less support than prescription hearing aids. You may not have access to in-person visits, adjustments, evaluations, or guidance from an audiologist or a hearing professional. You may have to rely on remote customer service, online tutorials, or user manuals to troubleshoot any issues or questions.

How to choose the best OTC hearing aid for your needs?

Choosing the best OTC hearing aid for your needs can be challenging, given the number of options available on the market. It’s important to read OTC hearing aids reviews to make an informed decision. There are some other factors that you can consider to narrow down your choices and make an informed decision, such as:

- Your hearing loss: The first thing you need to know is your level and type of hearing loss. You can take an online hearing test or visit an audiologist to get a hearing evaluation. OTC hearing aids are only suitable for mild to moderate hearing loss, which means you have difficulty hearing soft sounds or conversations in noisy environments. If you have severe or profound hearing loss, you will need a prescription hearing aid or a cochlear implant. Learn more about hearing health.

- Your budget: The second thing you need to consider is your budget. OTC hearing aids vary in price depending on the brand, model, features, and quality. You should set a realistic budget that reflects your needs and expectations. You should also factor in any additional costs, such as shipping, accessories, batteries, or warranty.

- Your preferences: The third thing you need to think about is your preferences. You should choose an OTC hearing aid that matches your style, comfort, and lifestyle. You should consider the following aspects:

- Style: OTC hearing aids come in different styles that fit in or behind your ear. The most common styles are BTE, ITE, ITC, and CIC. BTE hearing aids are larger and more visible, but they are also more powerful and durable. ITE hearing aids are smaller and less noticeable, but they are also more prone to feedback and moisture damage. ITC and CIC hearing aids are the smallest and most discreet, but they are also more expensive and have shorter battery life.

- Size: OTC hearing aids also come in different sizes that affect their performance and comfort. Larger hearing aids tend to have more features, longer battery life, and better sound quality. Smaller hearing aids tend to be more discreet, lightweight, and comfortable. However, size is also a matter of personal preference and ear anatomy. You should try different sizes and see which one fits your ears best.

- Features: OTC hearing aids also come with different features and technologies that affect their functionality and convenience. Some of the most common features are:

- Rechargeable batteries: Rechargeable batteries allow you to charge your OTC hearing aid using a USB cable or a charging case. They eliminate the need to buy and replace disposable batteries frequently. They also save money and reduce environmental waste.

- Bluetooth connectivity: Bluetooth connectivity allows you to pair your OTC hearing aid with your smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV, or other devices. You can stream audio directly to your ears without using headphones or speakers. You can also use an app to adjust your settings, monitor your battery level, or access other features.

- Noise reduction: Noise reduction is a feature that reduces background noise and enhances speech clarity in noisy environments. It helps you focus on the sounds you want to hear and filter out the ones you don't. It can improve your listening comfort and comprehension in various situations.

- Feedback cancellation: Feedback cancellation is a feature that prevents whistling or squealing sounds from occurring when your OTC hearing aid is too close to another object or device. It helps you avoid annoying feedback noises that can interfere with your listening experience.

- Directional microphones: Directional microphones are a feature that allows your OTC hearing aid to pick up sounds from specific directions and ignore sounds from other directions. They help you hear better in situations where multiple sound sources are competing for your attention, such as in a restaurant or a meeting.

- Tinnitus masking: Tinnitus masking is a feature that generates soothing sounds or music to mask the ringing or buzzing sensation caused by tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition that affects many people with hearing loss.

Choosing an OTC Hearing aid

The best OTC hearing aids represent a valuable option for individuals experiencing mild to moderate hearing loss, offering a more affordable and accessible alternative to prescription hearing aids. While they provide significant benefits, including lower cost, greater accessibility, and a variety of choices, it's essential to carefully assess their hearing needs, consult healthcare professionals as needed, and consider the limitations of OTC devices to help you make an informed decision about which OTC is right for you.


Are OTC hearing aids as good as prescription?
OTC hearing aids are designed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss and offer a practical, more affordable alternative to prescription hearing aids. While they provide significant benefits, including amplifying sound to improve hearing in various environments, they may not match the customization and personalization that prescription hearing aids offer, which are fitted and adjusted by audiologists for individual hearing profiles. Therefore, for those with severe hearing loss or specific auditory needs, prescription hearing aids might still be the better option due to their tailored approach and professional support.

How much do over-the-counter hearing aids cost?
The cost of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids can vary widely based on the brand, model, and features. On average, a pair of OTC hearing aids can cost around $1,000, according to Consumer Reports. However, prices can range from as low as $100 to as high as $3,000 for more advanced models with additional features. This price range makes OTC hearing aids a significantly cheaper option compared to the average cost of prescription hearing aids, which is around $4,700 for a pair.

Why see an audiologist before getting an OTC hearing aid?
An audiologist can provide a comprehensive hearing evaluation to accurately determine your degree and type of hearing loss. This evaluation is crucial because many individuals may not accurately self-diagnose their hearing capabilities. An audiologist can guide you on whether an OTC or prescription hearing aid is best for your specific needs and assist in the correct adjustment of the device for optimal performance​​​​.

Are hearing tests covered by health insurance?
Most health insurance plans cover hearing tests, which are crucial for determining the extent of hearing loss and the most appropriate intervention. The billing code used by audiologists for a comprehensive hearing evaluation is widely recognized by insurance providers​​.

What should you consider when choosing an OTC hearing aid?
When selecting an OTC hearing aid, consider factors such as durability, cost, trial periods, ease of use, and technological compatibility with smartphones and other devices. It's also important to assess whether the hearing aid is waterproof, requires a smartphone for use, and offers telehealth support. Additionally, consider the device's battery life and whether it's rechargeable​​​​.

As a leading supplier of durable and home medical equipment (DME and HME), ApriaHome sources and distributes a wide range of treatment solutions, including over-the-counter hearing aids.

We're here to support you as you work toward your improved health and well-being. We strive to meet your ever-evolving healthcare requirements with individualized attention and premium quality treatment solutions.

Looking to add auditory supplies? Browse our premium solutions and let us help you get the most out of every day.

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LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Material in this newsletter is only: (1) provided for general health education and informational purposes, and to provide references to other resources; it may not apply to you as an individual. While Apria believes that the information provided through this communication is accurate and reliable, Apria cannot and does not make any such guarantee. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, evaluation, diagnosis, services or treatment (collectively, "medical treatment"). Please see your healthcare provider for medical treatment related to you and your specific health condition(s). Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Reading this newsletter should not be construed to mean that you have a healthcare provider/patient relationship with Apria.