Up till recent years, most people only ever knew about prescription hearing aids – hearing aids prescribed by a hearing professional for a mild to severe hearing loss.
But there’s been a lot of talk in the last two years about the ability to buy hearing devices over the counter (OTC) – as in, in a shop or online.
And now that the US’s FDA has regulations in place allowing the sale of hearing aids in the US without a hearing expert’s prescription, we can expect to hear a lot more about them.
While things are a little different here in Canada as to what you can and cannot buy compared to the US, we expect regulations about OTCs will probably come into effect soon here too.
But what exactly is an OTC device, and what can it do for you compared to a prescription hearing aid? More importantly, would we recommend them? As is usually the case, our answer depends on several factors.
To list these out clearly, we answer the main questions we hear from our patients below to help you make the right decision for your hearing needs.
Key Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids And OTCs?
OTCs meet your need for generic, short-term, occasional help while prescription hearing aids meet your need for customized, all-day hearing care.
Generic vs. customized – Wearing prescription hearing aids is similar to wearing eyeglasses prescribed by an optician – your vision is assessed professionally, and your lenses are crafted to meet your eyes’ needs to see clearly at any distance.
Similarly, your hearing is assessed by a hearing professional, and your hearing aids are chosen, fit and programmed to meet all of your unique hearing needs.
Wearing an OTC device is similar to wearing generic reading glasses bought from your local Walmart or North West Company. You just use them for certain sound environments — like when you need more volume — and keep them in your pocket or handbag the rest of the time.
Amplifier vs. prescribed features – Most OTC devices are just amplifiers with none of the features prescription hearing aids offer, but some are better than others. They are best suited for people with a mild hearing loss who don’t need a long-term, all-day hearing solution.
Prescription hearing aids are best for people with a mild to severe hearing loss who need every aspect of the hearing aid’s programming set to match the pitch, tone and clarity each ear needs to hear clearly.
Cost – Because they have so few features, OTC hearing devices will always be cheaper than prescription hearing aids. The lack of professional support with OTCs is also what results in the cheaper price.
Returns – The returns period for OTCs will likely be the retail average of 30 days, whereas prescription hearing aids have a trial period of 1 to 3 months and a warranty of 1 to 4 years, depending on which care package you choose.
Ongoing care – You buy an OTC and you take care of whatever follows. You buy a prescription hearing aid through a hearing professional like Provincial Hearing and we walk with you through every aspect of the journey – choosing it, cleaning, checks, repairs and hearing checks (every year after).
How Do You Get A Prescription Hearing Aid?
Hearing test – A comprehensive hearing assessment will always be better than an online hearing test. We test for every part of what your auditory system hears and processes to see what your hearing treatment needs to support.
Fitting – We ensure the right hearing device is fit to meet all your hearing needs, canal shape, lifestyle and budget.
Ongoing care – We include free cleans and checks in our service package, and the cost of repairs or replacements will depend on the warranty you buy with your hearing aids.
We also check your hearing every year for any changes, and we notify you of any new technology and hearing aid software updates we know would help.
Adjustments – We program and adjust your hearing aids until you are happy with how they are serving you. Fine-tuning is normal, and we are here for you anytime your hearing needs change.
Are OTCs Right For You?
The best way to know what’s best for your hearing is to have a comprehensive hearing assessment done by a hearing professional. Most people can’t guess the hearing level they have and tend to underestimate how much help it needs.
The only way to know how to treat it properly is to match the device to the results of the test.
At Provincial Hearing, we’ll assess your hearing needs and recommend the best solution for you alone. There’s simply no other way to get what you need.
And yes, that might be an OTC because we find that all you need it a hearing boost from time to time. So book a hearing assessment and find out!
We look forward to helping you hear better either way.
Receive a Valuation Quote on Your Existing Hearing Aids
Available on all manufacturers and models (includes over-the-counter, PSAP’s or prescription devices)
If you’re exploring new hearing technology, and you’re an existing hearing aid wearer, then you may benefit from receiving a valuation quote on your existing technology.
Based on the manufacturer, model, age and condition – we’ll calculate a generous valuation on your devices that you could utilize as part of a trade-in towards new technology.
Simply complete the form, and we’ll contact you with the valuation quote.
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