Choosing new hearing aids can be a daunting process, whether it is your first time purchasing a pair, or if you are looking for something new. The market changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up to date with the various devices available.
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Interestingly, less than 20% of US adults who need hearing aids actually wear them, but there are a number of reasons why intervention and taking action is incredibly important once you realize you have a hearing loss. Fortunately, with so many hearing aid styles and features available, there is bound to be something for you. With the introduction of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, the devices are more affordable and more accessible than ever before.
What are OTC hearing aids?
Before we can dive into the various options available and their differences, we need to first understand what OTC hearing aids are. They are FDA-regulated devices intended for people with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss, that do not require a prescription, examination, or fittings by a hearing healthcare professional. They can be purchased directly online or in-store and fitted by the wearer. Some OTC hearing aids are classified as self-fitting hearing aids because they offer the wearer the option to customize and fit the hearing aids according to their unique hearing loss.
Benefits of OTC hearing aids
The most significant benefit of OTC hearing aids is their affordability and accessibility. Prescription hearing aids cost $4,500, on average, if you take into account all the medical expenses of returning doctor’s visits, the devices, and the fitting appointments. OTC hearing aids are, on average, about one-quarter of the price, making them far more accessible to those with hearing loss. A by-product of the affordability of the hearing aids, is that people with hearing loss are also now more likely to seek help and solutions earlier than before.
According to a recent study, it is believed that less than 20% of US adults who could benefit from a hearing aid wear one. There may be several reasons for this, but pricing has been cited as the major factor responsible for preventing those with hearing loss from seeking treatment. OTC hearing aids break down that financial barrier to make hearing healthcare more affordable and accessible for everyone.
The benefits of OTC hearing aids extend beyond simply a better purchase price. Another benefit is that some providers offer comprehensive after-sales support, such as troubleshooting and customization from a team of experts. One such supplier is Lexie Hearing. This way, you get to experience the benefits of prescription hearing aids without the high price tag.
The importance of OTC hearing aids is emphasized by the fact that they can assist with reducing negative symptoms associated with hearing loss such as isolation, depression, and dementia. Combining this with greater accessibility means that more people who suffer from hearing loss can enjoy a better quality of life.
How to choose OTC hearing aids
Choosing an OTC hearing aid will depend on a variety of factors. These can include feature options, fitment preference, as well as affordability.
There are so many options when it comes to the features available with OTC hearing aids. Some models boast rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth connectivity, customizable environment settings, and audio streaming. These will, of course, be priced accordingly, with the more feature-rich devices being priced higher than those with less.
It’s worth noting that some features are becoming standardized across OTC hearing aids, including rechargeability and Bluetooth connectivity. Most providers will also offer a compatible app for your smartphone or smart device that you can use to customize your hearing aid experience. A great example of this is Lexie Hearing, which offers the Lexie app. Because their range of hearing aids are self-fitting, the app is used to customize the hearing aids, adjust volume settings and environment programs, earn Lexie Rewards and contact Lexie Experts directly. It is important to determine which features are important to you so that you can narrow your choices down to those with those specific feature sets. This will make it easier when it comes to choosing a new set of OTC hearing aids.
There are various types of devices when it comes to how they fit inside your ear. The two most common fitment types for OTC hearing aids include behind-the-ear (BTE) and in-the-ear (ITE). The main difference between the two types is that BTE devices fit behind the ear - what you would typically imagine when hearing the term “hearing aid - and an ITE sits entirely within your ear.
The main body of the BTE which houses all of the hearing aids internal components will sit behind the year. A tube, or wire, will run from the main body into your ear canal, where the processed sound will travel through to your inner ear. A sub-type of BTE hearing aid is called a receiver-in-canal (RIC), which moves the receiver (also known as a speaker) from the main body to the dome that is inserted into the ear, at the end of the tube. These are typically smaller and offer better sound clarity than standard BTE devices.
An ITE device is slightly different, in that it houses all the internal components in a single body, which is then directly inserted into the ear canal. There are no external wires or connections with an ITE device, which is usually favored by those who value discretion, as well as those who do not enjoy having a hearing aid sit behind the ear.
In many ways, this is the most important consideration to keep in mind when it comes to searching for a new OTC hearing aid. Your budget will directly influence which style you should consider, and which features are within your reach.
On average, ITE devices will be slightly cheaper than BTE variants, but the trade-off is that ITE devices typically do not offer as many features, they might have reduced audio quality or reduced battery life. This is because ITE devices are smaller, and so there is often less space to fit the same features as you could in BTE devices.
If you have a strict budget, it is important to note what exactly you are looking for from your next hearing aid, so that you can narrow your choices down. Features and fitment should be prioritized if your budget is more flexible.
OTC hearing aids open up a world of possibilities for those who suffer from hearing loss, as they offer greater accessibility and affordability. It can be difficult, though, to decide on how to select a new OTC hearing aid as there are so many variations on the market.
It can be easier to narrow down your choices when you consider your budget, fitment preferences, as well as what features you are looking for in your hearing aid. Make sure you balance out which is more important to you before you start looking so that you do not get lost in the sea of options available to you.
Author: Robert de Wit
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