Improving Lives, One Ear at a Time

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

OTC or Prescription Hearing Aids: Which Device is Best for Me?

Hearing loss is unique to the individual, and understanding how it impacts your life and communication is essential when making healthcare decisions. As previously mentioned, those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss symptoms are the best candidates for an OTC hearing aid.

Mild hearing loss has a low impact on quality of life. Individuals with mild symptoms typically struggle to hear sounds within the 26-40 decibel range. They usually hear speech well but might strain to hear whispering or softer sounds.

Moderate hearing loss falls within the 41-55 decibel range. People with moderate hearing loss may strain to hear speech at normal conversation levels, especially with significant background noise.

Moderate-to-severe hearing loss occurs between 56-70 decibels. Those with hearing loss within this range will likely not hear conversations at normal volume, and will often ask others to repeat what they said or raise their voices.

Severe hearing loss occurs between 71-90 decibels, and those within this range cannot hear speech at normal conversation levels. They will likely need to turn the TV up to a volume that disturbs others in the room and may not hear the doorbell or phone ringing.

Profound hearing loss occurs at 91+ decibels. People with profound hearing loss can only hear loud sounds and will not hear speech at normal conversation levels. Even during loud conversations, speech may be difficult to understand without a hearing aid.

OTC hearing aids are not approved for use in children, as they are self-programmed and the risk of having incorrect amplification could result in irreversible damage to hearing. Additionally, adults with moderate-to-profound, unilateral or sudden hearing loss or conditions like tinnitus, should seek care from a licensed healthcare provider to receive the testing and customization needed to improve their listening experience.

The Bottom Line

Untreated hearing loss is not only a nuisance: it can seriously impact cognitive function later in life. Since they are more widely available, OTC hearing aids allow individuals with mild symptoms to get an early start on treatment. They also help people understand how drastically hearing loss affects their life. After seeing what an OTC hearing aid can do, individuals with hearing loss may be more inclined to seek a prescription should their symptoms progress.

OTC vs prescription HA