Over The Counter Hearing Aids

Over The Counter Hearing Aids

With the recent public announcement regarding over the counter (OTC) hearing aids, many folks have questions, as do we.

Hearing aids by mail, through the internet, and in chain stores is nothing new.

If you open a national magazine, do an internet search, or walk into a big box store, you will find an abundance of direct-to-consumer hearing aids available. When I started out, in 1984, doing hearing aid repairs, one of our steady accounts was a mail order hearing aid company called Ric Clark Hearing Aids. So, what changes based on the new OTC ruling? In short, the FDA has created a new class of hearing devices designed for individuals with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. These devices are designed to be “self-fit” without the involvement of a hearing care professional. The FDA has set the output limit and other parameters for this new classification of devices based on input by consumer advocacy groups, researchers, industry leaders, and more.

What to look for if considering an OTC.

We believe it’s important for individuals who suspect they may have a hearing loss to receive a comprehensive hearing exam from a licensed professional. Not only will this confirm candidacy for hearing aids and OTC devices, but it can also rule out other medical issues that could be causing the hearing loss. Even if someone is a candidate for OTC devices based on their hearing loss, it is our experience that users require a good deal of programming, fine-tuning, and adjustment to achieve the maximum result with their hearing devices. Unlike vision loss which is treated more or less identically based on the results of the exam, hearing loss is much more complex and individual since each person’s experience varies immensely based on the way their unique brain processes sound. It’s also important to review the trial period and return policy for any device you are considering purchasing. Because treating hearing loss is not one-size-fits-all, it’s almost impossible to know what will be best for you until you try it for yourself. Therefore, we offer a risk-free Hearing Aid Test Drive with no commitment or deposit so you can try hearing aids in your life before you buy, as well as lifetime service & support.

Will we sell these?

Maybe. We do extensive research and review of any products that we choose to offer at Upstate Hearing because we insist on only the highest quality for our patients. We’ll continue to closely monitor the OTC devices that come to the market, and if there are products that we trust to give our patients good results, we’ll consider offering, servicing, and supporting them.  It does remind me of when we sold the very popular TV Ears for around $149. They provided pretty good sound, but they had so many quality control issues and repairs that we decided to leave those types of devices to the Walmart’s of the world and to focus on in-home induction loop installation, hearing aid telecoils, and Bluetooth streaming and accessories which have been much more reliable for our patients.

Bottom Line

It’s been my experience that those with mild, high frequency hearing loss don’t come in for hearing aids at all – and when they do, the amount of improvement (mild loss, mild improvement) often doesn’t justify the cost. So, maybe an OTC device will work for them for a little while until they reach the point where they need prescription hearing aids, but only if they understand that OTC and “real” prescription hearing aids are not the same thing – much like cheaters versus real glasses.

There have been numerous large companies that have ventured into and already gotten out of the hearing aid industry: AT&T, 3M, Bausch and Lomb, and others. When the OTC concept started, Bose was one of the first consumer electronics companies to develop an OTC hearing aid. They abandoned that line of their business before the OTC ruling was even signed into law. Even Siemens, the only (substantial) German- made hearing aid, sold their hearing aid division, which is now merged with a Danish company. The point is, it is a particularly challenging industry, especially with competition from large, well-established companies that specialize in only hearing aids.

If you are hard of hearing, life is not much fun.

We lose connections with family, friends, and the world around us when we can’t hear well. We get irritated and frustrated when we can’t hear well. At UpState Hearing, we offer hearing aids for as low as $1500 a pair, including:  warranty, insurance, and all our services. If you’re considering over-the-counter hearing aids, we encourage you to come see us for a free hearing evaluation to help determine if you have a hearing loss and what type of device might be best for your unique needs. 

Kenneth H. Wood, BC-HIS

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With so many myths and misinformation about hearing loss and hearing care, it’s often the unknowns or confusion that holds us back from making the right decisions.

That’s why we have a hearing care expert available to help.

If you have a question, or would like to speak to a professional privately about the challenges that you may be facing, then simply request a callback and we’ll call you for a friendly no-obligation conversation.