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Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Nonprescription Hearing Aids – What’s the Difference?

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Hearing Aids, Industry News, Patient Resources, Technology

You might not have heard yet, but what were once called hearing aids are now called prescription hearing aids. So, why the difference?

There has been a need for this differentiation ever since President Biden’s executive order last July to make it easier for people to buy hearing aids over the counter. Since then, rules and regulations have been put together by the FDA to the point where today, we are seeing sales of the first “hearing aids.”

So now there are two terms for hearing aids:

  1. Prescription hearing aids – hearing aids prescribed, fitted, and programmed by an audiologist or hearing specialist
  2. Hearing aids – hearing aids sold online or in retail stores

Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Prescription Hearing Aids vs. Nonprescription Hearing Aids

We appreciate the fact that there are now two terms for these hearing devices, because, up until recently, most people assumed that hearing aids bought over the counter were the same as hearing aids prescribed by a hearing professional.

Now that the word “prescription” has been added, it helps people understand that prescription hearing aids have been ordered by a hearing doctor. It also implies that anything prescribed for a person’s hearing will be custom programmed and fitted by a hearing professional.

“Hearing aids” is now the new term for any hearing aid bought in a retail store or online without the input of an audiologist or hearing specialist.

What are the Main Differences Between Prescription Hearing Aids and Retail Store Hearing Aids?

Some might say there is no real difference between the two because they both help you hear better. This is far from the truth.

Hearing aids purchased online or in a store:

  • Are only good for adults with a mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Cannot be bought for children – prescription hearing aids are the legal requirement
  • Do not require a professional hearing test
  • Do not require a professional medical exam to diagnose a hearing loss and determine its cause

There is a huge danger to skipping out on the medical exam in that a hearing loss can be caused by a medical condition, and some of these conditions could have devastating long-term consequences if not treated immediately.

Prescription hearing aids:

  • Are prescribed for children and adults with any degree of hearing loss – mild to profound
  • Require a professional hearing test
  • Require a physical exam to ensure that no medical condition is causing the hearing loss
  • Are programmed and adjusted to specifically match a person’s hearing loss

Prescription hearing aids are the best possible solution a person with a hearing loss can have because they are programmed to accurately treat every single aspect of a hearing test’s findings.

Not only that, a patient will have three to five years of follow-up visits to make sure that their hearing has the best possible treatment and care.


Take the First Step in Choosing the Best Hearing Aids

There’s no way to know exactly what your hearing needs are until you have a proper hearing test. A physical exam of your ears will reveal if something such as earwax or a growth in your ear canal is causing your hearing problem. A full medical assessment should catch any medical conditions that might be causing the hearing challenges.

Buying hearing aids is similar to buying eyeglasses – you can either buy generic reading glasses at your nearest superstore or you can go to the optometrist and have glasses custom made for you based on your exact prescription.

While the reading glasses can work for short periods of time, they’re never going to be enough if you’re reading all day. But with prescription eyeglasses, you can wear them all day without your eyes getting tired. And you can see every word clearly.

In the same way, store-bought hearing aids work in a pinch for hearing people talking in noisy environments, but they are never going to clarify every single word and sound you hear because they are not programmed to match your hearing needs.

This is why your first step should be to have a hearing evaluation in a sound booth by an audiologist, and once that’s done, you can have an informational discussion with your audiologist about the best hearing treatment for your diagnosed hearing loss.

Still Confused about Hearing Aids and Nonprescription Hearing Aids?

There’s no better way to get expert advice about hearing aids than to visit an audiologist. We have decades of knowledge and experience, and we love putting that to good use by helping you live your best hearing life.

We’re not here to try to sell you expensive devices. We’re here to help fine-tune your hearing so that you can hear every single sound you need to live a life you enjoy at home, at work, and with friends.

We have a lot of resources available if your budget is tight, so please don’t worry about that aspect of hearing care.

Book your hearing test with us, and feel free to call us at 281-444-9800 if you have any questions at all about hearing care. We look forward to helping you.

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Dr. Lacey Brooks, CCC-A, FAAA - Doctor of Audiology

Dr. Lacey Brooks received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry in 2003, and earned her Doctorate of Audiology in 2009. She completed her clinical internships and residency at various facilities within Houston Medical Center. Dr. Brooks is a preferred provider for the American Institute of Balance (ABI), a professional member of the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), a member of the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA) and is certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She is also the vice president of the Louisiana State University Houston Chapter Alumni Association. In addition to her years of experience identifying, diagnosing and treating all types and degrees of hearing loss, and vestibular disorders, Dr. Brooks has spent the last 13 years becoming an expert in Tinnitus management and therapy. Dr. Brooks is also one of the few providers in the country certified for Lyric Implantable Devices. For over seven years, Dr. Brooks successfully ran and operated more than six audiology clinics for one of the largest practices in the state of Texas before joining the North Houston Hearing Solutions team in 2016. Dr. Brooks prides herself on providing her patients with the highest quality of care. She loves her patients dearly and feels so fortunate that she gets to help improve their daily lives. This love, combined with her impressive skill set, business experience and passion for helping people hear has made Dr. Lacey Brooks a wonderful addition to the North Houston Hearing Solutions’ team. When not at the office, Dr. Brooks enjoys spending time with her daughter, husband, family, and friends. Dr. Brooks is also very involved in her church and with mission work in her community and abroad.

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