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What is the Difference between OTC and Prescription Hearing Aids

a display of different hearing aid styles

Hearing aids are a common device used to treat hearing loss. There are two types of hearing aids: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. What is the difference between the two? And which one is right for you? In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between OTC and prescription hearing aids, as well as the pros and cons of each type.

What Are OTC Hearing Aids

OTC hearing aids are devices that can be purchased without a prescription from an audiologist. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates OTC hearing aids. Currently, there are only two FDA-regulated OTC hearing aid products on the market.

Advantages of OTC Devices

The main advantage of OTC hearing aids is that they are more accessible to individuals with self-perceived mild hearing loss. Because they are available without a professional hearing test, they can be purchased online or in pharmacies.

Disadvantages of OTC Hearing Aids

However, there are some disadvantages to using OTC hearing aids. First, because they are not custom-fit to the individual, they may not be as effective in treating hearing loss. Additionally, because they are not fit by an audiologist, you won’t have access to follow-up care to make adjustments that benefit your listening experience.

What Are Prescription Hearing Aids

In contrast to OTC hearing aids, prescription hearing aids can only be purchased after receiving a series of hearing tests from an audiologist. In the United States, the FDA regulates prescription hearing aids. They come in a host of different styles and sizes, including behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE) and in the canal (ITC). Other varieties are also available amongst these common styles, including completely in canal (CIC) and invisible in canal (IIC).

Advantages of Prescription Hearing Aids

The main advantage of prescription hearing aids is that they are custom-fit to the individual, so they are more effective in treating hearing loss. Additionally, because they are regulated by the FDA, prescription hearing aids must meet certain safety and quality standards. Hearing aids will be fine-tuned to your exact needs, meaning you will be able to equip your device with the features you will most benefit from. Some of the most common features include: Bluetooth, multisettings, feedback reduction, noise cancellation and remote controls.

Disadvantages of Prescription Hearing Aids

Prescription hearing aids are an investment in your health, so you’ll need to work with your audiologist to find a device that is suitable for your budget, lifestyle and hearing loss needs. Luckily, your audiologist will provide you with guidance during this time and will help you find the right solution for your preferences.

Differences in Technology

OTC hearing aids use “off-the-shelf” technology, which is mass-produced. In contrast, prescription hearing aids use “custom” or “semi-custom” technology, which is made specifically for each individual. This means not only will the hearing aid itself be tailored to your ear anatomy, but it will also be programmed for your exact hearing loss needs.

Do Both Improve Quality of Life the Same?

There is no clear answer. Both OTC and prescription hearing aids can improve the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss. However, because they are not custom-fit, OTC hearing aids may not be as effective as prescription hearing aids.

Why Do FDA Regulations Matter?

FDA regulations matter because they ensure that hearing aids are safe and effective. Additionally, FDA-regulated hearing aids must meet specific quality standards. These quality standards include:

  • Sound quality: The hearing aid must amplify sound without distortion.
  • Feedback: The hearing aid must not produce a “whistling” sound.
  • Durability: The hearing aid must be durable and resistant to damage

Which One is Right For Me?

The type of hearing aid that is right for you depends on your individual needs and preferences. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss and are looking for a less expensive option, an OTC hearing aid may be a good choice. However, if you have severe hearing loss or want the most effective treatment possible, a prescription hearing aid is a better option.

No matter which type of hearing aid you choose, it is important to consult with a certified audiologist to ensure that you are getting the best possible device to treat your hearing loss. Norriton Hearing Center offers a variety of hearing aid options, as well as professional fittings and consultations. Contact us today at (610) 273-6077 to schedule an appointment and find out more about the best solutions to address your needs!