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What Are Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids?


By Heather Sandy, M.A., Audiologist

In August 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued their finalized rule regarding Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aids, effectively creating a new category of hearing aids. This new FDA ruling is intended to increase access to OTC devices and put stricter criteria on devices already on the market or future devices.

Why are OTC hearing aids being made available? Studies have shown that the average person waits 7–10 years after first experiencing hearing loss symptoms before seeking professional hearing help. Studies also link untreated hearing loss with an increased risk of depression, falls, and earlier onset of cognitive decline. One goal of OTC hearing aids is to provide an option that may be more accessible for some.

Who can use an OTC hearing aid? The OTC hearing aid is only approved for use in adults who have a “perceived” mild to moderate hearing loss. If you have any of the following, you should not use an OTC hearing: Fluid coming from the ear, hearing loss or tinnitus which is worse in one ear, ear pain, history of excessive ear wax or a feeling that your ear is plugged, sudden or fluctuating hearing loss, or significant dizziness. If you do have any of these symptoms, you should consult with your medical provider and consider having a hearing exam with an audiologist.

How do I know if I need a hearing aid at all? As audiologists, we know that it is often difficult for our patients to estimate their level of hearing loss. The OTC hearing aid options do not require a hearing test, however, a diagnostic hearing evaluation with an audiologist will be able to determine your level of hearing loss and rule out some other medical conditions.

What if an OTC hearing aid does not work for me? While Over-the-Counter devices are meant to be “self-fitting,” if the device alone does not provide an effective solution, consider consulting with an audiologist. We can help to determine if the OTC device is appropriate for you or if a more personalized solution is needed. Prescription hearing aids obtained from your audiologist are fit to your unique specifications with professional support.

How do I obtain Prescription Hearing Aids? The first step is to have a hearing evaluation to determine the specifics of your hearing loss and discuss your unique hearing needs. If prescription hearing aids are the next step, your audiologist will provide counseling, personalized device selection, accurate fitting and follow up services.

At Audiology Consultants, P.C., we are available to help you with your hearing concerns. We have been providing services in the Quad Cities area for over 40 years. We are dedicated to providing quality hearing health care.

Now is a great time to have your hearing checked! Audiology Consultants’ offices are located at 2215 East 52nd St., #2, Davenport, IA: 563-355-7712; 600 Valley View Dr., Moline, IL: 309-517-3889; Unity Point Clinic, 3426 North Port Dr., #500, Muscatine, IL: 563-264-9406; or Hammond Henry Hospital, 600 College Ave., Geneseo, IL: 309-944-9181.