OTC stands for “Over the Counter” and represents amplification devices that may be purchased online or in a store without an evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional.

The reason that we see more OTC devices becoming available is because the FDA approved the sale of OTC hearing aids at the beginning of this year.

However, due to COVID-19, the FDA has NOT put forth any guidelines or specs for OTC hearing aids. Therefore, these devices cannot be referred to as hearing aids at this point.

Hearing Aid or OTC – Which One Is Best?

The differences between hearing aids and OTC devices are numerous.

Hearing aids are medical devices prescribed to treat hearing losses that have been diagnosed by a hearing healthcare professional and are programmed specifically for an individual’s hearing loss and lifestyle needs.

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OTC devices are generic amplifiers.

When you purchase hearing aids from an audiologist, you ensure that you are receiving individualized service and that, if any problems arise, an audiologist will be available to answer questions and remedy any hearing aid malfunction.

When you purchase OTC devices, there is no one there to teach you how to use them, how to adapt to hearing differently, or what to expect.

And when something goes wrong, there is no one there to fix the hearing aid or the situation.

“My friend has an OTC device and says it’s much cheaper than a hearing aid.”

No two hearing losses are alike. It is not fair to base your decision on someone else’s experience with amplification.

Further, while the cost of those devices may be less, they will likely not last anywhere near as long as properly maintained hearing aids fit by a professional, and the user will be less satisfied with the quality of the devices. 

Who Are They For?

OTC devices are an acceptable choice in some situations. For example, if you have a mild hearing loss and would like to get a feel for what very basic amplification sounds like, it would be reasonable to consider an OTC.

Further, for people who have caretakers or are in nursing homes, it may be difficult to handle and care for hearing aids, so OTC devices may be a more appealing option due to a possible lower cost in case the device gets misplaced or destroyed easily.

However, OTC devices are NEVER appropriate for children.

They are also not designed for more than a mild degree of hearing loss, and for most people, they do not provide the flexibility needed for an ever-changing, noisy listening environment.

Need Advice Making Your Decision?

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty hearing, the first step is always to schedule a hearing evaluation.

The difficulty may be caused by something as simple as earwax occluding the ear canals, or perhaps something as complex as a growth on the auditory nerve.

A proper hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist will help determine the type of hearing loss and perhaps the cause of the loss.

If medical intervention is an option for treating the hearing loss, we can provide an appropriate referral to a physician who could eliminate the need for hearing aids entirely.

If hearing aids are an option, we will discuss which technologies will be most beneficial to each individual. There are a variety of solutions available at EVERY price point!

If you are unsure on what option is right for you, get in touch at (210) 820-0525.

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Dr. Tracy Board Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Board began her career in audiology after completing her undergraduate degree at The University of Texas at Austin and the doctoral program at The University of Texas at Dallas. She has been fortunate to work in a plethora of healthcare and educational settings. As a result, she has perfected the art of effective adult and pediatric treatment. When she is not at the clinic, Dr. Board works directly with her state and national organizations to not only improve the quality of audiological healthcare in Texas, but also to advocate for her patients.