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:
- Prescription hearing aids – hearing aids prescribed, fitted, and programmed by an audiologist or hearing specialist
- 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.