Over-the-Counter vs Prescription Hearing Aids: What’s the difference?

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (KBSI) – When you purchase over-the-counter hearing aids, you often get what you paid for: a cheaper alternative to prescription hearing aids that may not suit your needs. 

Tom Wright, a nationally board-certified hearing instrument specialist at Miracle-Ear in Poplar Bluff, said diagnosing a potential hearing problem is similar to any other health issue.

“The only way you’re going to know is if you go to a doctor and get proper testing done, and the only way you’re going to know you have a hearing problem and how it needs to be taken care of is if you go somewhere and get the proper testing,” he said.

At places such as Miracle-Ear, audiologists and hearing instrument specialists conduct extensive testing to make sure you are getting the specific hearing aids that you need. The testing is conducted in a sound booth like this one, which provides a controlled environment, as opposed to the minimal testing you may receive when purchasing OTC hearing aids. 

Wright said while this testing is a big difference between OTC and prescription hearing aids, another disparity comes after you purchase the hearing aids. 

“We’re going to clean and check it for you. We’re going to update your hearing test. We’re actually going to spend the time doing the things to take care of you that people need to help with their hearing versus if you purchase an over-the-counter hearing aid, generally you’re just getting a device in a box that’s not set for your loss,” he said.

Long story short, when it comes to hearing loss, it’s quite the opposite of one-size-fits-all. 

“Hearing loss will never be a one-size-fits-all proposition because even if you have two people with identical hearing loss, their lifestyles are probably not identical,” Wright said.

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