Over-the-Counter vs. Prescription Hearing Aids: Understanding the Difference
New U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations mean hearing aids are now available without a prescription for the first time in the United States. This is good news for people with hearing loss, as over-the-counter hearing aids may be more accessible and affordable than prescription devices. But how do these two categories of hearing aids differ? Learn more about the differences between prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids from the team at Horizon Audiology, Inc., providing hearing care throughout central New Jersey.
Prescription Hearing Aids
Previously, hearing aids were available only by prescription. These devices are prescribed by an audiologist who has diagnosed a patient’s hearing loss. There are several styles of hearing aids, including:
- Behind the ear (BTE)
- Completely in the canal (CIC)
- Full shell (FS/ITE)
- In the canal (ITC)
- Invisible in the canal (IIC)
- Receiver in canal (RIC)
Prescription hearing aids are custom-fit to a patient’s needs and anatomy. A prescription device can address mild, moderate, or severe hearing loss, as well as issues such as tinnitus. Manufacturers of prescription hearing aids include Phonak, Oticon, ReSound, and Unitron. An audiologist helps set up, program, and fine-tune prescription hearing aids so they are tailored to the patient’s needs. Generally, patients get a more personalized hearing solution than they would with an OTC device.
Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids
While a prescription was previously required for any type of hearing aid, individuals can now shop for OTC hearing aids online or in stores. Because these devices are available without a prescription, a customer doesn’t necessarily need to see an audiologist before selecting a hearing aid. Some people prefer the convenience of shopping for OTC hearing aids at a big box store or even online from the comfort of their own homes. OTC hearing aids are designed for individuals with mild or moderate hearing problems, so patients with more significant hearing loss likely will need prescription hearing aids instead. OTC hearing aids are designed only for adults – children with hearing loss must have their hearing aids prescribed and fitted by a trained audiologist. It’s important to note that OTC hearing aids should not be confused with personal amplifiers. These are basic listening devices that have been commercially available for years. However, they’re not a good fit for most people with hearing loss.
How Much Do Hearing Aids Cost?
Patients who need hearing aids often wonder how much a device will cost. There is no one-size-fits-all answer – hearing aid costs vary by model and manufacturer. OTC hearing aids are relatively new to the market, but the American Academy of Audiology estimates OTC hearing aids will range in price up to $1000/pair. Some health insurance plans cover the cost of hearing aids in whole or in part, while others do not. Individuals whose hearing aids are not covered by insurance may be able to pay for their devices using a health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement arrangements (HRA). Unfortunately for older adults with hearing loss, Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids.
Learn More About Hearing Aid Options
Ultimately, both prescription and over-the-counter hearing aids can be great options for addressing hearing loss and improving quality of life. It simply depends on a person’s needs and individual preferences. Of course, it’s always helpful to get the expert advice of a qualified audiologist. At Horizon Audiology, Inc., patients can receive a comprehensive hearing assessment and get advice on the types of devices that may suit them best. With locations in East Windsor and Pennington, NJ, Horizon Audiology, Inc. serves patients of all ages throughout central New Jersey. To make an appointment request, please contact us today.