The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved regulations regarding over-the-counter hearing aids (OTC).

The goal is that OTC hearing aids will offer technology that will meet the expectations of consumers who seek low-cost, accessible devices. While affordability is important, it is also important to be an educated consumer.

If you are considering purchasing a device that claims to be an OTC hearing aid, you should consider the following:

If you suspect hearing loss – did you receive an evaluation by a hearing professional? Did they confirm you have a hearing loss? Is it a hearing loss that affects one or both ears? Is there any wax or medical issue that should be treated first? This information is crucial before using a hearing device. Self-tests are not always accurate and cannot be relied upon for the selection of your hearing device.

Your type of hearing loss – not all hearing loss types are the same. Certain devices are more effective with specific “types” of hearing loss.

Do you know if the OTC hearing aid you are considering is the right one for your lifestyle? If you are an active person vs. someone who lives a quieter lifestyle, the technology required must match your activity level. If not, you may be disappointed if the device has none or minimal noise reduction capability.

If your device doesn’t work properly, do you know how to troubleshoot it?

Do you know how to fit your device so it’s comfortable in your ear while giving you good performance? Are you able to select the right dome so that it seals the sound in your ear properly and provides the right retention?

With all of that in mind, what recourse do you have if you are not happy, have questions or need services?

The Role of Hearing Evaluations (Hearing Tests)

A precise hearing test done in a soundproof booth by a hearing professional is important to identify type and degree of hearing loss before assuming what kind of device to use. An otoscopic inspection of the ear to rule-out any wax impaction and a healthy eardrum will also impact hearing device success. Finally, ruling out a medical condition that requires treatment rather than a hearing aid should be considered.

Participating in a hearing evaluation is easy and completely painless. You will gain a better understanding of the volume and frequencies (pitches) you can hear as well as how well you understand speech in quiet and in noise. If you do have hearing loss, it is our goal to provide you with comprehensive information so that you can decide which course of treatment is right for you. You can learn more about hearing evaluations on our website.

Hearing problems can only be correctly treated when they’ve been accurately evaluated and diagnosed. Choosing an audiologist to care for your hearing means that you’re choosing a professional with the most extensive education in hearing conditions and the proper treatment and management of hearing loss.

Our audiologists are committed to the ethical guidelines of the profession and aim to educate patients using best practices.


While there is optimism that OTC hearing aids could provide a cost-effective solution for many with mild to moderate hearing loss, there are some concerns about what the individual with hearing loss will be risking. The potential benefit of a lower up-front cost could mean sacrificing important benefits that come from meeting with a hearing health expert.

The bottom line: Consider your needs, your situation, and total investment. Work with a hearing healthcare provider to get the most accurate information. Hearing professionals will do their best to offer you the most cost-effective solution that fits your hearing health, lifestyle and long-term needs.

Hearing health is not only about the device. It is about proper diagnosis, education, treatment using knowledge about ear anatomy, physiology, and sound.

As for hearing devices, the proper selection, fitting, and programming of the device is critical if you want to hear optimally. Unfortunately, hearing devices require a lot of maintenance. They have a high failure rate due to moisture, wax or debris clogging the speaker and microphones. Often performance will slowly decrease, and the user may not be aware. Wax may have accumulated in the ear canal. In addition, hearing loss is progressive and may be getting worst; a hearing test or re-programming of the device may be necessary periodically.

All these concerns are managed with your Audiologist. With this partnership, you can trust that your hearing is in competent hands and that you will get the support and expertise to care for your precious sense of hearing.

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