What Are Prescription Hearing Aids And How Are They Different To Over-the-Counter Devices?

What Are Prescription Hearing Aids And How Are They Different To Over-the-Counter Devices?

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Hearing Aids, News, Patient Resources, Technology

With over-the-counter hearing aids gaining popularity through the recent FDA regulation proposal, you will start to see a change in how many people in the industry refer to the hearing aids that are prescribed by a hearing care professional.

Traditional hearing aids will begin to be more formally known as “prescription hearing aids,” and those that can now be purchased at a store without medical assistance are known as “over-the-counter hearing aids.”

Before October 2021, it was generally accepted that a hearing aid must be procured from a professional audiologist. However, President Biden made an executive order to allow people to get lower-level hearing devices from their local pharmacy.

While this announcement is suitable for a lot of people, it can also be a bit misleading. We want to ensure that you have all the information before you put a plan in place to improve your hearing.

What Is A Prescription Hearing Aid?

A prescription hearing aid is what you get from a professional audiologist. You go through a testing phase and discuss your issues before getting fit for a hearing aid that suits you.

If you have hearing aids that you got from an audiologist, then you have prescription hearing aids. Any other device sold at a store or online is called an over-the-counter hearing device.

As we appear to be following the optometry model, I believe “prescription” will be a term you hear more and more. There are prescription glasses and prescription contacts, and there are OTC “cheaters” that you can purchase.

I think it’s an excellent way to delineate the difference between a medical device and something akin to reading glasses.

Diagnostic Audiological Evaluation

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Over-The-Counter

Here is a breakdown of these two offerings and who would benefit from each.

Prescription Hearing Aids

  • Prescribed by a professional
  • Need a test beforehand
  • Has many settings to customize to the patient’s needs
  • It cannot be bought online or at a store

Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices

  • No test needed
  • Must fit and adjust on your own
  • Has minimal settings
  • Only meant for those with a mild hearing loss

How To Determine Which One Is Right For You

The only way to truly know what you need is to visit an audiologist and get a comprehensive hearing test done. Just as people go to an optometrist and “cheaters” are the recommendation, this is how people will know what is best for their hearing.

We recommend avoiding online hearing tests because they have accuracy issues. Most are based on asking the patient questions and making a guess on whether a device might be appropriate. Others that actually use your headphones and sounds to listen to have calibration issues.

I’ve tried these, and they always recommend devices for me. I have normal hearing. It would make sense that an online company would be interested in making sure that everyone needs to purchase something.

Going to an audiologist is the only surefire way to get an accurate diagnosis of what you need.

What To Do If You Are Still Unsure About Your Needs

If you’re in Southern Texas, I recommend visiting one of our offices to get a hearing assessment done.

Ask questions about the fitting process and what they look like. Also, find out if you have a benefit through your health insurance. More and more plans have a benefit that can’t be used online.

We are always available for a chat over the phone to answer all your questions. An educated patient almost always makes a good decision. An educated patient certainly will never regret the decision they made.



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Dr. Scott Marquardt - Doctor of Audiology & CEO of Clarity Hearing

Scott Marquardt is the owner of Clarity Hearing and a highly skilled audiologist who has been in practice for over 20 years. Dr. Marquardt earned a master’s degree in audiology from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and a doctorate from A.T. Still University. He is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association and a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. He and the team offer comprehensive hearing healthcare services and specialize in the care of tinnitus, imbalance, and auditory processing disorders.

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