Hearing & Balance Doctors

Are OTCs and Prescription Hearing Aids the Same Thing?

I always hear people referring to their over-the-counter device as a hearing aid; this mistake has become all too common

Those who are just starting to experience hearing loss have many more options available to them these days. However, with so many choices, it may be challenging to choose the right one for you.

To easily compare the difference between traditional hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids, regulations use the terminology “Prescription Hearing Aids” to describe the medical-grade hearing devices that we have all been referring to as hearing aids.

Although aimed at simplifying the matter, these new products have added some confusion. This has resulted in more people being unsure of the differences and which will provide the most help.

Critical Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids and Over-the-Counter Devices

The most straightforward comparison would be reading glasses versus getting eyeglasses prescribed to you based on an eye test.

This is why over-the-counter devices are recommended to people with mild hearing loss who require assistance in certain situations. These are not meant as a long-term solution.

You can put them into your ears when you’re out for a meal or when you’re at church – much like putting your readers on when reading a newspaper. But they’re not designed to be used as a long-term solution.

Prescription hearing aids, on the other hand, are for people that want to prolong their long-term hearing health and maximize their listening capabilities.

They require a thorough hearing evaluation performed by an audiologist to understand what sounds are being missed. From there, a set of medical-grade devices are programmed to the exact level of hearing loss and professionally fitted to your ears to ensure the best possible performance and outcome.

Pros and Cons of Each Device

OTC Pros:

Mild Cases – OTCs are recommended for people who have just started to experience a decline in their hearing. As an amplification tool, an OTC can be advantageous to those who only need a small amount of assistance.

Cost – OTC devices range in price, but, overall, they are less expensive than prescribed hearing aids. They are meant for minor hearing loss and don’t consider any existing medical conditions. Their settings are minimal and therefore cost less upfront.

OTC Cons:

Not Always a Correct Fit – Sometimes, having the wrong OTC can do more harm than good. There may be issues with the volume or background noise cancelling that could lead to further hearing problems. Depending on your previous condition, an OTC could also create wax impact or canal damage.

No Assessment – There are limited resources when looking for the right OTC for you. They don’t provide individual testing, so you may end up with a device that won’t address your needs.

Inconsistent – If you have already purchased an OTC and were unhappy with the results, we don’t want this to affect your opinion of traditional hearing aids. If this describes your situation, please bring your OTC to us, and our professional staff can have a look and provide honest and helpful feedback.

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Hearing Aid Pros:

Quality – Traditional hearing aids have been around for a long time. With this knowledge, we can fine-tune the settings to target the patient’s specific needs. Increased volume and reducing background noise are two things that a traditional hearing aid does much better than an OTC.

Individual Attention – With each hearing aid, we test and fit our patients specifically to their hearing condition. We work with you to identify the leading problem and then correctly diagnose and treat the issue. By doing so, we can track and monitor your progress and make necessary adjustments at any time.

Full-Service Coverage – Hearing aid costs also cover a high level of attention that is included with your hearing aids. We provide continued care, a personalized approach, and full device support.

Insurance Coverage – In some cases, your hearing needs may be covered by your insurance company. This will significantly reduce the cost.

Continued Aftercare – We are always ready and willing to assist all our patients or anyone in Utah and Nevada. If you are experiencing problems with your hearing aid or need to make adjustments, just come into one of our offices, and we’ll be happy to help.

Hearing Aid Cons:

Price – If your insurance does not cover hearing aids, the cost can be higher than some OTCs, but not in all cases.

What’s Next if You Think You Need Help?

If you’re unsure of which to choose, that is an indication to come in and discuss your individual needs with us.

Getting a hearing test will confirm or deny that a prescription hearing aid is appropriate for your hearing loss level prior to spending the money. A basic prescription hearing aid is often more effective, costs less, and has the professional guidance of an audiologist.

If you’ve already purchased an OTC, we encourage you to bring it to us so we can help you learn how to use it, verify its effectiveness, and review any maintenance as needed.

Of course, if you have any questions, please give us a call, and one of our professionals will be happy to help.

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Dr. Richard Luekenga

Dr. Luekenga opened Hearing & Balance Doctors of Utah in 2005. Since that time he has been dedicated to creating state-of-the-art facilities filled with the latest technology along with the most qualified and caring hearing healthcare team. He received his Doctor of Audiology from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. His doctorate is supported by his B.A. at Utah State University, clinical fellowship at Bountiful Hearing Center and further clinical experience at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, IHC Hearing and Balance Center, The Kosair Children’s Hospital, Heuser Hearing Institute (Deaf Oral School), and Avada Hearing and Balance Center, to name a few. With this long list of experience, it is clear that Dr. Luekenga is very passionate about good hearing and is well-versed in the advances of hearing aid technology. He is equally as passionate about helping patients that feel off-balance, dizzy, lightheaded, or unsteady, and understands the need these patients have to get back on their feet! Additionally, he provides counseling and therapy for patients who experience tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in their ears).

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