Question: What is the difference between Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Custom Fitted Hearing Aid Amplification Devices?
OTCs are personal sound amplification devices (PSAPs). FDA defines PSAPs as being wearable consumer electronic product intended for non-hearing impaired individuals to use to augment hearing in environments, such as recreational activities. PSAPs are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment and they are one size fits all.
Custom Hearing aids on the other hand, are wearable devices designed for the purpose of aiding persons with impaired hearing. Hearing aids are considered Class 1 Medical Devices and are fitted by Audiologists or Hearing Healthcare Professionals. Hearing aids are measured to accommodate individual ears, sizes and shapes.
Improving hearing and communication requires more than increasing overall volume, which is about all PSAPs can do. Louder does not mean clearer. Louder can be noisy and uncomfortable. Most OTCs are amplifiers that make everything equally loud, including the speech you want to hear and environmental noise you don’t. Hearing aids are custom and programmed specifically to the degree and configuration of your hearing loss, providing amplification to the deficit frequencies. Instead of just making everything louder, hearing aids can actually discern between noise and speech you want to hear. Hearing aids can automatically adjust, enhancing speech while suppressing background noises. Hearing aids can help you hear better in wind, reverberate rooms, crowds, and other challenging listening environments. OTCs simply cannot do this.
Consumers are cautioned that by skipping the audiologic evaluation and health-care professional, underlying hearing issues could be missed or untreated. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased stress, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, fall risks, dementia, and diabetes.