Differences In Prescription & Over The Counter Hearing Aids

private hearing aids - hearing aid acoustician at work

If you feel like you are struggling with your hearing, whether it feels like the world has gotten quieter, people are mumbling or it is harder to make out words, private hearing aids can bring clarity back into your world.

For the most part, this means booking an appointment with a GP or a specialist audiologist and getting hearing aids fitted that are attuned and tailored to your needs, both in terms of hearing assistance and also in terms of fitting your lifestyle.

However, there are also some types of hearing aids (sometimes advertised as hearing amplifiers) that are available over the counter in some pharmacies and even some supermarkets and catalogue stores.

Whilst they often look very similar to hearing aids, have some of the same basic designs and work in an ostensibly similar way, they are very different to prescription hearing aids of the kind you would get from a private audiologist and vary wildly in quality and price.

Here are some of the big differences.


The Intended User

Over-the-counter hearing aids are similar to OTC reading glasses, in the sense that they are designed for relatively mild-to-moderate hearing loss, whilst a prescription hearing aid is tailored to the user and can manage any degree of treatable hearing loss as prescribed by an audiologist.


When You Can Use Them

An OTC hearing aid can be used as soon as it is bought, and can sometimes be useful for people who want to try out the feeling of a hearing aid before they see an audiologist, although this is naturally only the case for people with mild hearing loss.

Prescription hearing aids take a little longer to arrive, as they need to be designed with your individual needs in mind, and often require a fit-in session to ensure they are a perfect match for your ears and are tuned in a way that makes them comfortable to put in.


Do You Need Your Ears Testing?

For OTC hearing aids, they can be bought and used regardless of your current diagnosis, and typically the test comes with buying a pair and trying them out to see if they provide any clarity. That is as far as testing or configuration ultimately goes.

Meanwhile, before having a prescription hearing aid, you will have a test with a professional audiologist, an examination of your ear to check if any physical conditions may be affecting hearing such as impacted ear wax, and a comprehensive hearing test that helps reveal the level and potential causes of hearing loss.


Comfort Levels

By design, OTC hearing aids are one-size-fits-all, and whilst they come in a range of styles, they are far from tailored to the needs of each ear. The result may be hearing aids that do not feel comfortable in the ear, might be more noticeable than you may like, or ones that feel too loose to stay in.

In the fitting session, an audiologist will ensure that your hearing aids are comfortable, and follow-up sessions are an opportunity to tweak them to ensure a perfect fit and adjust the settings to suit your hearing.