Our hearing is a complex sense involving sound traveling through the parts of your ear into the auditory nerve and the brain, translating it into usable information. It is one of the senses we use for much of our interaction with the world and directly affects our sense of balance. Damage to your hearing, like tinnitus, auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder, and conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss, can not only affect how well you hear but can make communicating with others difficult, make you feel cut off from the world and lead to depression.
Hearing aids have been an essential device in restoring hearing for millions. As of last year, people have been able to purchase them over the counter (OTC) without a medical exam or any prescription. While this is a tremendous benefit and helps to lower costs, there are reasons why you still need to see an audiologist. If you live in the Orlando or Kissimmee, Florida area, and you have problems that require a hearing aid, Drs. Wade Han, Elvira Livigni De Armas, and their team at Florida Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center can help.
Now, let’s examine how hearing aids work, the benefits of over-the-counter hearing aids, and why you should still see an audiologist.
How hearing aids work
These tiny electronic devices amplify sounds to make hearing easier for people with problems making out the noises and voices in the world around them. They are placed either behind or in the ear and generally consist of a microphone, a receiver, and an amplifier. The microphone picks up the sound and is converted into electrical signals as it hits the amplifier. The amplifier then sends them to your ear through the receiver. Using these devices helps to improve hearing in different environments, increase communication skills, make comprehension of sounds more effortless, and reduce tinnitus in your ears.
The benefits of OTC hearing aids
The primary reasons over-the-counter hearing aids are an advantage to patients are:
Ease of purchase
They can be bought without a prescription or medical supervision in person or online. This can be very helpful if you’re 18 or older with moderate hearing problems.
Ease of use
The devices can be adjusted and customized to your needs using software, tools, and wireless technology and can even allow you to perform self-assessments on your hearing.
These devices are air-conduction hearing aids and do not require any implantation or other surgical work. For mild to moderate hearing problems, this is a bonus.
The reasons you should still seek a specialist
This doesn’t necessarily take the matter out of the hands of specialists, however:
- If you’re not used to having a device in your ear, you’ll need to adjust to that and figure out the best position to fit it in, or they’ll fall out, and getting used to them will take longer.
- The amount of damage to your hearing also determines whether or not OTS aids are helpful in treating your condition, and severe hearing loss requires medical care.
- OTC devices are not as customizable as prescription devices, and you may need special care in managing your hearing problems.
- You’ll likely need to see an audiologist to determine if you need a hearing aid in the first place, so the question of OTC vs. prescription devices can be answered with expertise.
Ultimately, OTC devices make hearing aids more accessible and affordable to patients. However, the business model is still very new, and many concerns are better addressed with professional help. If you need a hearing aid and are considering an OTC device, make an appointment with Drs. Han, Livigni De Armas, and Florida Ear Nose Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center today to get the best answers for your needs.