If you aren’t already familiar with over-the-counter hearing aids, you might assume that they’re more or less the same as prescription models. And in some ways, you’re right.
Both devices rely on amplification to help you hear important conversations and sounds, but there are a few key differences that you should be aware of.
Below, we explore the factors that set OTC hearing aids apart so you can make an informed and empowered choice when it comes to your hearing health.
As you consider your hearing care options, you should first assess the severity of your hearing loss — which you may want to do with the help of a professional.
While prescription models are appropriate for all levels of impairment, OTC hearing aids are only appropriate for mild to moderate hearing loss.
This might lead you to believe that standard hearing aids are the best solution for everyone, but there are several reasons why you might choose an OTC option instead, so without further ado, we’re going to walk you through them.
Unfortunately, price is a barrier that prevents many of us from accessing the hearing care we need. In fact, one study found that three quarters of Americans couldn’t comfortably afford hearing aids and that a $2500 expense would be “catastrophic” for their personal finances.1
The good news is that, when it comes to hearing aids, many OTC models are comparatively low cost.
To start this comparison, we need to consider the price tags that come with the devices themselves. While prescription hearing aids may cost as much as $4000 to $50002 — and sometimes more — many popular OTC hearing aids land at less than $1500 per pair.
That’s already some serious savings potential and things look even better when we consider the other expenses associated with hearing loss. When you use over-the-counter hearing aids, you are often able to avoid additional fees for consulting and tests with your audiologist or hearing care professionals.
Crunching the numbers, it becomes clear that OTC options could reduce your hearing care costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on your unique situation.
Moving on from cost, there’s another important accessibility factor to address. As you can probably tell from the name, it’s a lot easier to get your hands on a pair of over-the-counter hearing aids. You can order OTC models online or look for them at local stores and pharmacies.
Prescription models, on the other hand, come with wait times and practitioner visits. These extra steps can be tough to accommodate if you're dealing with physical limitations, a time crunch or a particularly busy schedule.
If you need hearing support but don’t plan to compromise when it comes to style, you’ll be happy to know that many OTC hearing aids prioritize clean and modern design.
While there is nothing wrong with the look of prescription hearing devices, this may be especially appealing to you if you struggle with the idea of hearing loss stigma or if outward appearances have prevented you from seeking help.
Ultimately, the best match will depend on your unique circumstances but to sum things up, OTC hearing aids could be the right fit for you if…
- You have mild to moderate hearing loss
- You hope to keep the cost of hearing care down
- You like the idea of fast, easy and low-effort access
- And you plan to tackle hearing health with a bit of extra style
On the other hand, if you have severe hearing loss, prescription hearing aids are the way to go and a qualified hearing care professional can help you find the right match.
It’s also important to note that you may need to visit an expert — even if you opt for OTC devices — to ensure that this solution is appropriate for you or to address possible issues like wax buildup.
So, if you prefer an OTC model but also want the support of a medical professional, you may want to explore All-Day Clear's In-Clinic Care Package. This setup offers the best of both worlds with all of the perks of OTC hearing aids plus the help of a qualified hearing care pro.
Want to take your learning one step further? Check out these unexpected benefits of hearing health support.
- Jilla, A. M., Johnson, C. E., & Huntington-Klein, N. (2023). Hearing aid affordability in the United States. Disability and rehabilitation. Assistive technology, 18(3), 246–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/17483107.2020.1822449
- Simpson, B. W. (2021, October 22). The Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Retrieved November 13, 2023, from https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2021/the-hearing-aid-revolution-cheaper -and-easier-to-get