We want everyone in Washington to be aware of the significant differences between the two.

What is an ‘OTC’, and How Does it Differ from Prescription Hearing Aids?

05/14/2022 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources, Technology

There is a misconception in some circles that all hearing aids are created equal, and they’ll help anyone hear better. Many people are used to referring to these devices simply as ‘hearing aids’. 

For many years, there has commonly been one category of hearing aids–the devices that a hearing health professional fits for people with a mild to severe level of hearing loss.

However, in October 2021, the proposed regulations around a new category of hearing aids called ‘over-the-counter’ hearing aids were released following President Biden signing an executive order.

The regulations went into great depth to explain what over-the-counter hearing aids are, what they are not, and the very tight rules that must be adhered to.

To quickly and easily compare the difference between traditional hearing aids and over-the-counter hearing aids, the regulations used the terminology “Prescription Hearing Aids” to describe devices that you and I know to be hearing aids.

Although aimed to add simplification, it has added a layer of confusion, which is resulting in more people being unsure of the differences.

What Does the Term ‘Prescription Hearing Aid’ Mean These Days?

Until recently, all hearing aids were prescription. Now that over-the-counter hearing devices are available, it allows big companies to blur the line between a hearing aid and an over-the-counter device. 

We want everyone in Washington to be aware of the significant differences between the two. 

A prescription hearing aid is an advanced piece of technology that has helped millions of people regain their hearing and their lifestyles. For those with any kind of hearing loss, a prescription hearing aid is guaranteed to improve your hearing.

What is an OTC?

These devices are modified sound amplifiers that can assist only those with mild hearing loss. They draw a close comparison to reading glasses that you would buy off the shelf at your local pharmacy. You don’t need a prescription for them, but if your condition worsens, you’ll need to see a professional.

We advise everyone in our community to please speak with us first if you think an OTC will help you. We can provide guidance as to which one will suit you best, if any.   

Find Out Which Device Will Benefit You Most By Scheduling A Comprehensive Hearing Assessment Right Now.

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Over-The-Counter Hearing Devices—What are the Differences?

The term ‘prescription hearing aids’ was created to help the consumer understand the difference between purchasing a hearing device online or in a store (OTC) versus buying a hearing aid prescribed by an audiologist from a reputable hearing aid manufacturer (prescription hearing aid).


Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Device:

  • For many consumers, their hearing can’t be improved if the device doesn’t work according to plan right out of the box. There are very limited adjustments to the sound quality that the wearer can make.
  • The FDA does not regulate this segment of hearing care. Thus, there are no standards regarding electrical power, output limitations, harmonic distortion, or input noise.
  • Certain OTC devices come with an app that allows you to program your hearing loss to supposedly provide better customization.  However, these devices can be quite costly which defeats the purpose of getting an OTC device.

Prescription Hearing Aids

  • Prescription hearing aids are devices that require the knowledge and skill of an audiologist to be fitted appropriately.
  • Many adjustments can be made throughout your journey using speech mapping. This allows the audiologist to precisely dial-in the device to the patient’s unique and changing needs.
  • The manufacturer programs them with custom settings determined by your audiologist. The information needed to make an accurate diagnosis comes from a comprehensive hearing assessment.

Which One is Right for Me?

We strongly recommend getting a hearing assessment before purchasing any device, even though OTCs do not require it. Without a test, you won’t know why your hearing is the way it is. Your issue may not be solved from a prescription hearing aid or an OTC. 

For example, a patient who has impacted earwax can experience temporary hearing loss. The solution is to remove the excess wax to restore their hearing. Purchasing an OTC or prescription hearing aid would not help in this case. Only a comprehensive hearing assessment will be able to tell us that. 

You can schedule your hearing test right here to find out which device will benefit you and, more importantly, how to take care of your hearing so it stays with you forever.  We are always available for a no-obligation chat as well. Call us any time as we are standing by and ready to help everyone here in Washington.

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Lori Losey Lovato MA, FAAA, Audiologist

Lori is a lifelong resident of the Tri-Cities. She and her husband Anthony are proud to be raising their family here. She attended Washington State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing sciences and her master’s degree in audiology. Lori began practicing audiology in the Tri-Cities in 1993. During this time, she has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including private practice and ear, nose, and throat physicians’ offices. She has spent her career focused on assisting those with hearing difficulties through the use of hearing aids, listening strategies, assistive devices, and counseling. She is experienced in working with both adult and pediatric patients. It is important to Lori to develop close relationships with each and every patient, as she helps them develop better communication strategies to live a fuller life.

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