Next year, a new class of hearing aids will be available at retail stores throughout the U.S. Currently there are devices that look like hearing aids on the shelf at the local pharmacy, so this concept is not new. There have always been ways to self treat hearing and in 2020, there will be more choices.
This new class of amplifiers labeled “over the counter” (OTC) hearing aids will be required to meet FDA standards and designed for mild to moderate hearing loss.
If you decide to pick something off the shelf, be smart and get a proper hearing evaluation which includes an examination of your ears. Here’s what will you gain by seeing a professional.
First you will learn how clear your ear canals are. If your ears are filled with wax, they will need to be cleaned. Hearing aids will push the wax in deeper. Wax will affect the performance of a hearing aid by blocking sound and enough wax can actually damage the device. If you have unusually shaped ears, or narrow canals, knowing this may limit your choices. It’s nice to have this information before wasting resources on failure.
Secondly, a hearing evaluation will determine the degree and nature of your hearing loss. If you have more than a mild to moderate loss, most likely, an OTC solution will not be in your best interest. There are a number of hearing losses that require medical attention. It would be unfortunate to put hearing aids on your ears when a physician could improve your hearing medically.
Third, because the sense of hearing is connected to over all health you will be educated on what factors put you at risk for changes in your hearing. An Audiologist will educate you on what you can do to protect your ears and advise you on how often to follow up.
Fourth, an Audiologist can evaluate your performance in noise. Hearing in noise is one of the biggest consumer complaints. There are hosts of special features and accessories available with traditional hearing aids to help with the understanding of speech in the presence of background noise. If it is determined that you perform poorly in noise, OTC may not be the right solution for you.
Lastly, OTC devices can be evaluated in the same manner as a traditional hearing aid using special equipment. This scientific approach will measure exactly how the hearing aid is performing in your ear. Real ear measurements are worth the investment to assure you are getting proper benefit.
Having all the facts helps to make the best decision. Before you invest in guessing what is right for you, invest in having an evaluation by a professional. You’ll save yourself time and money by doing things right the first time.