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PRO HEARING SPONSORED CONTENT In the past, prescription hearing aids were the only FDA regulated hearing devices available on the market.

Recently, federal legislation was passed to include a new class of hearing aids to be released to the public called “Over-The-Counter” (OTC) hearing aids. These products will now be available for purchase at local pharmacies and on-line. The intent of OTC hearing aids is to increase availability of hearing help for those with mild hearing losses. With reduced costs and convenient accessibility, the hope behind OTC hearing aids is that more people with mild hearing losses will seek hearing loss treatment sooner. Even with intention and potential benefits OTC hearing devices, the audiology community is split on the topic or at the very least, have concerns about the proper usage of these devices.

It is true that those with milder hearing loss tend to delay the pursuit of hearing help due to the high cost of hearing aids (several thousand dollars for a pair) in conjunction the perceived benefit received. Currently, research shows people typically wait seven years after initially noticing hearing loss before taking action. This is due to hearing loss stigmas, cost of hearing technology, and the misconception that mild loss isn’t worth treating. However, by the time seven years passes, a mild loss has the potential to increase into a moderate or even severe loss. This seven-year waiting period may result in a negative impact on the brain including poorer speech clarity and cognition over time. Therefore, early treatments to hearing loss serve several purposes, including reducing the stigma of hearing aid use, quicker treatment for better brain support, and a lower entry price point for those struggling to afford traditional hearing health care. That said, we still believe patients’ best interest is best served in the hands of dedicated hearing professionals.

Hearing care professionals want people to be informed before purchasing OTC hearing products. The first thing consumers need to know when considering OTC hearing aids is that they are not meant to treat moderately-severe (or worse) hearing loss. Their only intended use is for mild to moderate hearing losses. OTC hearing aids can be compared to OTC glasses. For instance, just as “readers” from the drug store are intended for mild eye-sight correction for reading, OTC hearing aids are intended to help mild hearing loss. For mild vision losses, OTC readers are truly sufficient. However, for greater eye site discrepancies or for longer daily wear needs, most consumers will need more precision from prescription strength. This same principle applies to OTC hearing aids. When hearing loss first becomes noticeable, a little extra volume is all that is needed to enhance hearing. As hearing loss progresses, however, device feedback (whistling) and speech clarity become frequent issues. Research on self-fitting OTC hearing aids shows that patients most commonly increase the incorrect frequencies (bass) when fitting themselves, which leads to poorer hearing in background noise. By having a hearing professional on your side (even with OTC product use) pitfalls can be avoided and optimal results can be accomplished.

It is also important for consumers to use caution and discretion when self-diagnosing a loss of any kind. It is good for consumers to be aware of their hearing health, however, a self-diagnosis solely based on perception can be risky. This is because the perception of hearing loss is not always an accurate indicator of the actual hearing loss a person has. Therefore, it is impossible for consumers to truly identify the extent hearing loss without an examination from a professional. Studies show that hearing professionals play a large role in a patients’ success with hearing devices. Even if a consumer wants to go the OTC route, a visit to the audiologist to confirm degree of loss will maximize chances of success with an OTC device. The providers at Pro Hearing strive to exceed patients’ expectations and desire to set all patients up for success with their devices. That is why we offer a service plan for patients who need assistance with their OTC hearing devices!

We encourage everyone to take their hearing health seriously and urge anyone who suspects any level of hearing loss to have their hearing tested. This is the best way to confirm the presence of hearing loss and to know for sure if an OTC can accommodate one’s hearing needs. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss or need help with your OTC product, call us today!

Dr. Pam Matthews, Audiologist
Pro Hearing, LLC
9409 N May Avenue and 10404 S Pennsylvania Ave
Oklahoma City, OK