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Over the Counter Hearing Aids

Over the counter hearing aids (or OTC’s) is a hot topic in audiology at the moment. In 2017, the FDA approved OTC’s in the United States, but will likely be until 2020 before they are readily available in America. It is expected they will come to Canada shortly after.

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OTC's vs HAs

If you’ve seen something that looks like an OTC on the internet or in a store, it is likely a Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP’s). These devices are simply amplifiers for those who are looking for extra volume for activities such as bird watching or hunting.

When OTC’s do become available, they will only be suitable for a small group of listeners, those with mild-to-moderate hearing losses. They will likely be able to be purchased without the help from a hearing healthcare professional. We can think of OTC’s like reading glasses. They are inexpensive and easily available, but are certainly not suitable for all forms of vision problems.

OTC’s differ from hearing aids in the fact that hearing aids are advanced computers that amplify sound in a completely individualized way for the listener. They are designed with signal processing that make use of advanced algorithms to automatically adjust the level of different pitches and sounds. They are classified as a medical device.

Communication improvement is the end goal for the consumer. While OTCs may help some consumers, audiological testing, device recommendation, fitting and routine follow up is necessary for most folks with hearing loss. Typically, there is only one cost when obtaining hearing aids. This is not only for the devices, but it is the cost for a total rehabilitation plan. Hearing is more than what the device on your ears can do. It having someone understand how you hear, your lifestyle requirements and tailoring the device for your environment and listening needs.

Hearing Loss and Quality of Life

Hearing loss has a profound effect on our quality of life. The link between stress, loneliness, depression, and cognitive decline has been well documented. Untreated hearing loss impacts the way we go about our daily lives and most importantly impacts our relationships and connections with others. We often think about the most important things in life being not tangible objects, but our interactions with our families, friends, neighbours, pets, etc.

If a hearing loss, whether it be mild or severe, is impacting our enjoyment of these critical connections it is time to seriously consider treatment options. Treating hearing loss has been shown to improve anxiety, depression, feelings of control over one’s life and even reduce cognitive decline and dementia. We are fortunate that, unlike so many other chronic conditions, hearing loss is treatable. To discuss best treatment options for you, make an appointment with a trusted audiologist.

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