What are over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids?

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids that consumers can buy directly, without visiting a hearing health professional. These devices can help adults with mild to moderate hearing loss but are not meant for children or adults who have more severe hearing loss. If you have more severe hearing loss, OTC hearing aids might not be able to amplify sounds at high enough levels to help you. 

OTC hearing aids are an alternative to prescription hearing aids, which are currently only available from hearing health professionals, such as audiologists, ENT's (ear, nose, and throat doctors), and hearing aid specialists. The hearing health professionals fit you for a hearing aid, adjusts the device based on your hearing loss, and provide other services and aftercare.

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Where can you find OTC hearing aids?

OTC hearing aids are for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. You will be able to buy OTC hearing aids as soon as mid-October 2022 directly in stores and online, where prescription hearing aids are not available. You will have to fit them yourself, unfortunately, and you may not be able to control and adjust the devices in ways that users of prescription hearing aids can. Some OTC hearing aids might not look like prescription hearing aids at all, instead some may be bulkier and more visible than traditional hearing aids. 

If you have trouble hearing conversations in quiet settings such as cars or trucks, noisy appliances, or loud music—consult a hearing health professional immediately. These are signs that you may have more severe hearing loss and that OTC hearing aids won’t work well for you. A hearing health professional can help you determine if a prescription hearing aid or other device can help you. 

Some ear problems need medical treatment. If you have any of the following, please see a licensed physician promptly:

  • Fluid, puss, or blood coming out of your ear within the previous 6 months.

  • Pain or discomfort in your ear.

  • A history of excessive ear wax or suspicion that something is in your ear canal.

  • Episodes of vertigo (severe dizziness) with hearing loss.

  • Sudden hearing loss or quickly worsening hearing loss.

  • Hearing loss that has gotten more and then less severe within the last 6 months.

  • Hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing) in only one ear, or a noticeable difference in how well you can hear in each ear.

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