In 2017, Congress passed a law for over-the-counter hearing aids to be sold for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss. Over-the-counter hearing aids will be sold in stores and online without a medical evaluation or hearing test from an audiologist. This will apply for individuals 18 years or older. Children must have a medical examination before the use of hearing devices.

If you feel you have a mild hearing loss (having difficulty hearing on occasion) over-the-counter hearing aids could be suitable for you. Although over-the-counter hearing aids will be more cost effective, the devices will likely not be as sophisticated as a prescription hearing device fit by an audiologist.

If your hearing loss is moderate to profound (you experience difficulty understanding conversation in most listening situations) over-the-counter hearing aids are likely not for you. With this severity of hearing loss, prescription hearing aids are more suitable.

However, if you do not know where your hearing loss is coming from, a medical evaluation is recommended. Hearing loss can come from ear infection, Eustachian tube dysfunction, middle ear problems, noise exposure, a benign tumor (acoustic neuroma), etc. Many times, if your hearing loss is derived by a medical issue, after seeking medical treatment, the hearing loss will be resolved without the use of hearing aids.

Further more, if you experience a sudden hearing loss, sudden onset of tinnitus, dizziness accompanied by hearing loss, or one ear that is worse than the other you should see a doctor as soon as possible. This is likely a medical problem, which needs immediate attention.

Hearing aids prescribed by your audiologist are fit to your hearing loss and you are given thorough instruction on the use and care of the devices. Over-the-counter hearing aids are devices purchased at a big box store for you to take home and learn how to use on your own.

An appointment with Lemme Audiology is the first step in determining the degree and type of hearing loss you are experiencing. It is also the first step in determining what treatment plan would be best (prescription hearing aids, OTC hearing aids, or even a referral for medical treatment).  You can take this first step by calling (814) 941-7770 to schedule your hearing evaluation.

Ashlee McCloskey, Au.D.

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