On August 16, 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration issued its finalized rule that allows Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids (OTC Hearing Aids) to be sold to consumers. This rule is effective October 17, 2022, and the prospect of more people addressing their hearing loss and treating it sooner is very exciting. As audiologists, our mission is to help as many people as possible hear their best, no matter where they are in life and no matter what hearing devices they are using.
EVERYONE DESERVES TO HEAR THE BEST THEY CAN
We believe everyone deserves to hear their best, and OTC hearing aids could be exactly what’s been missing because it’s been speculated that upwards of 80% of people with hearing loss don’t seek treatment. (Wow! Re-read that sentence.)
And those who sought treatment for their hearing loss reported waiting between 7-10 years or until they felt it was “that bad.” Meaning that they knew they were struggling with their hearing but tried to ignore it. They knew they lacked speech clarity for years and tried to create ways to compensate for it.
Over time, untreated hearing loss can limit a person’s quality of life. Those who delay treatment tend to report higher levels of depression, social isolation, and disengagement from activities they once loved. They also reported higher levels of stress in their close relationships.
So, what if more people addressed their hearing issues within the first year of suspecting a change?
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SEEK TREATMENT EARLY ON?
If you grew up hearing and you learned to talk, like most of us, then your brain was wired early on to use sound in a complex manner to extract meaning and to learn more about the world around you. Growing up, much of what you learned came from what you heard. You were soothed by your parents with sound, you were taught to hear spoken language, and then eventually learned to talk using that same language you heard. Even your mood can be affected by the different types of music you hear throughout the day. One study in London found that people reported more happiness when they had a simple conversation with someone, even if it was only a stranger.
If your hearing changes, many of the easy parts of listening are no longer easy, and if you wait too long to do something about your ears, the rehab process for your brain will be more difficult. And so, the sooner someone makes a correction for their change in hearing with hearing aids, the more likely it is that they will be able to get back to functioning like before the hearing loss and live their best lives.
Hearing is one of our five basic senses. It’s so important for socializing, learning new things, listening to music, and just being present in life. So many detrimental side effects can occur if someone ignores their hearing, including dementia, depression, and social isolation. Everyone deserves to be able to hear their best. There is also a tendency for phonemic regression (a decrease in your ability to clearly understand words) if a known hearing loss is left untreated for too long.
DO-IT-YOURSELF HEARING AID FITTINGS
Many people in this world can DIY anything. Some do not need a lot of help. The new Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids will give the tech-savvy person with a perceived mild to moderate hearing loss the ability to program their hearing aids using a smartphone and an app. They will be able to take an online hearing test and make adjustments to the hearing aids using low-energy (LE) Bluetooth. This is exciting because someone just noticing a slight change in hearing can easily program themselves a pair of hearing aids in minutes and start stimulating the brain with the sounds they’ve been missing right away!
SO, WHAT HAPPENS IF THE OVER-THE-COUNTER HEARING AIDS DON’T WORK FOR YOU?
If a person bought Over-The-Counter hearing aids and is wondering why they cannot hear as expected, the simplest thing to do is call a local audiologist, like Ahlberg Audiology & Hearing Aid Services. There are so many devices now sold at different places, and you don’t know if it was a good investment if you are still struggling to hear. You don’t have to suffer. Our office, for example, will help you determine if it’s just wax in your ear or if the devices are not functioning to meet your hearing needs.
At your audiology visit, we will evaluate your hearing with a comprehensive protocol and calibrated sound equipment, using best practices in our industry. We will educate you about your type and degree of hearing loss, how the ear works, and help guide you with the hearing aids. If scheduled, we can use Real Ear Measurement to verify if your new Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids are meeting audibility targets that are the Gold Standard of ensuring proper hearing aid fittings and were created by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) in Australia.
In our office, we give tips, tricks, and strategies about managing difficult listening situations, as well as a timeline of listening exercises that can gradually help your brain adjust to the new sounds in life so you can hear your best.
CONCERNS OF SAFETY
Listed below are 4 justified concerns for safety with Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids:
- Improperly taking the hearing test could result in over-amplification.
- Improperly programming the devices could result in over-amplification.
- No one is examining the ear or providing a diagnostic examination to rule out a severe medical diagnosis or any medical contra-indications to wearing the hearing devices.
- These are not to be fit on children, as improper fitting could lead to over-amplification.
Whoever you are, we are here for you, and so are our fellow audiologists worldwide. We want you to know that hearing loss management can be complicated, but that’s where we come in. If you are struggling to hear better, see an audiologist. Audiologists will examine your ears, determine if there is ear wax that needs to be removed, and conduct a proper evaluation of your ears. From that point forward, they can better help you with the hearing aids you purchased over the counter.
You see, many factors are involved, no one looks like they have a hearing loss, and every individual should be treated with their unique condition and situation.
If you are ready to schedule your hearing evaluation, call us at (423) 641-0956 or request an appointment online.