Hearing Aids Prescribed by an Audiologist vs. OTC Hearing Aids: What’s the Difference?

Audiologist administers a hearing test to a client to check for hearing loss.

In recent years, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids have been getting a lot of attention. But, one question remains in the minds of many people: How are hearing aids prescribed by an audiologist different from OTC hearing aids you can get at your local pharmacy?

Here’s the quick answer: The actual hearing aid technology itself may not be all that different. Whether the hearing devices are purchased over the counter or through an audiologist, hearing aids are meant to improve your hearing ability when your natural hearing has declined. What IS significantly different between the two hearing aid sources is the hearing loss treatment journey.

Notice the word ‘journey’. Contrary to what many people believe, hearing loss treatment is NOT a one-time event. For example, purchasing hearing aids and wearing them is NOT the end of the story. To illustrate this point, let’s take a closer look at what happens when you get hearing aids prescribed by an audiologist.

Your Hearing Loss Journey: What Hearing Loss Treatment Looks Like From an Audiologist

When you work closely with a hearing healthcare provider to treat your hearing loss, there are several steps that are part of the process. Here, we’ll go through each one so you’ll have a clearer picture of the entire journey.

1. Recognize that a hearing problem may exist.

The first step in solving any problem is to identify that a problem does actually exist. The same is true for hearing loss. Have you been asking your partner or family members to repeat themselves? Do you turn up the TV volume louder than what others find comfortable? Are you experiencing difficulty understanding conversations, especially in group settings or in areas with lots of background noise? These could all be potential symptoms of hearing loss.

2. Have your hearing evaluated by a hearing healthcare professional.

Now that you think you have hearing loss, let’s find out for sure. Schedule an appointment with your local audiologist for a hearing test and thorough hearing evaluation.

At Advanced Hearing Group, we do complete hearing tests to determine the type and severity of hearing loss. But, our evaluation doesn’t stop there. If hearing loss IS detected, we do other diagnostic testing to rule out other factors that could potentially be resolved by surgery, medication, or other forms of treatment. We often refer clients to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor if conditions are present that could potentially be treated by means other than hearing aids.

3. Find the best hearing aids … IF they’re needed.

Once other factors have been ruled out and diagnostic testing has revealed the need for hearing loss treatment, your audiologist may prescribe hearing aids as part of the solution. But, not just any set of hearing aids will do.

At Advanced Hearing Group, our audiologists want to help you find the BEST hearing aids for YOU. Modern hearing aid technology varies widely with some models being very simple and others offering a plethora of helpful features. Ultimately, the best hearing aids are the ones that you have chosen based on your specific type and severity of hearing loss, your budget, and your lifestyle. Even the most advanced hearing aids won’t help if you don’t wear them or don’t use all of their features.

4. Have your hearing aids adjusted to YOUR hearing levels and start the acclimation process.

When you first start wearing hearing aids, it will take time for your brain to become accustomed to all of the new auditory stimuli. With hearing aids prescribed by an audiologist, your devices may initially be set lower than you need them to be. With use, your brain will begin to get used to hearing again and the hearing aids will need to be adjusted again.

This acclimation process is often easier for those who wear their hearing aids full-time. The process takes much longer for individuals who only wear them part of the day.

5. Get annual or routine hearing aid adjustments as needed.

As we mentioned earlier, hearing loss treatment is a journey. Since your hearing levels will change as you age, there will be a need for periodic hearing aid adjustments. While hearing loss treatment does help you to hear better, the number one goal of hearing loss treatment is to help prevent cognitive decline. That means routinely adjusting your hearing aids so they are able to continually provide your brain with the auditory stimuli it needs to stay active and healthy.

Hearing Aids Prescribed by an Audiologist vs. OTC Hearing Aids

Now that you know how hearing aids are prescribed by an audiologist and what that hearing loss journey looks like, let’s take a closer look at OTC hearing aids.

First, it’s important to note that the ultimate goal of over-the-counter hearing aids is to make hearing loss treatment more accessible, especially for those who won’t go to a hearing clinic or can’t afford to do so. As such, these devices are intended only for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Your Hearing Loss Journey With OTC Hearing Aids

Now, let’s look at the hearing loss journey with OTC hearing aids vs. those prescribed by an audiologist. The first step is the same – identify that there is a possible problem. But, that’s where the similarity ends.

With OTC hearing aids, YOU decide whether or not you need hearing aids. And, your decision may not necessarily be based upon a hearing test or thorough hearing evaluation. You can simply head to your local pharmacy or similar retail establishment and pick up a set of over-the-counter hearing aids.

Once you buy the devices, you must adjust them to your hearing levels by yourself. Fortunately, there are step-by-step directions that will help you do so. To learn more about what OTC hearing aids look like and how they function, watch this video:

Similar to buying a pair of nonprescription reading glasses, the purchase of OTC hearing aids is a one-time event. While you can make minor adjustments to how well the devices work, there is no hearing professional to help you with hearing aid maintenance, hearing aid repairs, or routine adjustments to help you hear better.

Hearing Loss Treatment in Mesa and Scottsdale, AZ

The bottom line is that YOU get to decide which hearing loss treatment journey you take … hearing aids prescribed by an audiologist or OTC hearing aids. Consider the long-term advantages of working with a hearing healthcare professional. We sincerely hope that you will take the journey with us, not alone.

To get started on the path to hearing better and preventing cognitive decline, schedule an appointment with our Mesa or Scottsdale audiologists today. We’re here to help you effectively manage your hearing loss journey so you can hear well and live well.

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