If you have ever asked yourself, “Why do I need help with my hearing?” and your loved ones tell you that it is simply to hear better, then your solution may be over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.
Ever since President Biden gave his executive order to allow over-the-counter hearing aids, hearing device manufacturers have been rushing to be among the first to market a new product to the type of consumer more likely to self-diagnose and self-treat their hearing loss.
Bose is one of these manufacturers. The Bose SoundControl hearing aid is their first over-the-counter hearing aid, currently available in the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii, and it is FDA approved.
Self-Diagnose And Self-Treat Hearing Loss?
Yes, that is correct.
Bose highlights the fact that consumers can self-fit and self-tune their hearing aids as if it were a positive thing. It is actually not positive at all and can end up quite dangerous and damaging to a person’s long-term ability to hear.
Why would self-treating a hearing loss be dangerous?
- The hearing “loss” might be a simple result of too much earwax, and you get your hearing back with a simple ear canal cleanout, also saving the $850 that would have been spent erroneously.
- The hearing loss might be caused by a medical condition that will remain untreated, with possibly tragic results.
- The OTC hearing aid will be self-tuned, thus not addressing diagnosed hearing needs but perceived hearing needs. Research has shown that we are poor judges as to what we need to hear better. For example, we would choose to hear subjectively — for more comfort in hearing — instead of hearing with greater intelligibility (clarity). When we listen to music, an average listener would “crank up” the bass sounds and reduce troubling sharp treble sounds. In general, we find high frequency treble sounds more disturbing and more annoying by design, as they can cause an unwanted and often frightening mental state.
- The OTC hearing aid’s volume button will be self-controlled, thus possibly causing serious, chronic hearing damage.
Therefore, asking a new hearing aid user to be responsible for their adjustments to an OTC device may not be the most optimal thing to do.
Amplifying Quieter Sounds
Bose says, “Amplify sounds you want to hear. … quiet sounds are amplified more than loud sounds so you can hear what’s around you more comfortably.”
With hearing aids, the question is not how to amplify quiet sounds more but how to amplify speech sounds more than other sounds which are present at the time when we listen to someone talking.
The question is how to reduce all of the interfering sounds and to emphasize the important speech.
For example, often in a restaurant situation where there are many speech sounds present simultaneously, we are faced with how to hear the person we need to hear and how to reduce other speech sounds which are only interfering with our primary speech sounds.
So as we can see, choosing the correct amplification system is not that simple and to rely on self-fitting may not be the best way to go about it.
I like to compare it to a self-tutoring manual on how to fix your car versus going to a professional. One, you are dealing with a car while with your better hearing, you are potentially putting at risk more health-related issues.
Yet another factor in self-fitting is the possibility of over amplification.
Over amplification occurs when we inadvertently expose ourselves to more sound than that which is safe.
This can be done by basically “cranking up” the volume for all sounds across the pitch range, such as from bass sounds to high treble or just over amplifying certain ranges of sounds. In either case, we run a risk of damaging our hearing and worsening our degree of hearing loss.
But we also put ourselves at risk of acquiring tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and possibly also triggering hyperacusis, which simply means that all normal sounds become too loud to tolerate.
As an audiologist specializing in these auditory disorders, I can attest to many patients who acquired tinnitus and hyperacusis after being exposed to loud sounds.
I urge you, be wise and before you decide how to go about improving your hearing, seek out advice from a professional such as an audiologist.
Hearing definitely can and should be considered one of the most important senses for our survival, if not the most important.
Therefore, if you choose OTC hearing aids for your journey to better hearing, consider allowing us to partner with you to help you in this intricate process of choosing the best ones.
Hearing loss can only be accurately tested in a professional sound booth. It cannot be subjectively perceived. While mild hearing losses can be considered for treatment with an OTC hearing aid, there is a lot more to consider before clicking the purchase button.
Stop searching online for a few days and seek professional advice before you reach for OTCs, and please consider all the long-term consequences of not treating a hearing loss properly.
Need Support With Your OTCs?
At AVI, we are dedicated to helping people with a hearing loss to improve their lives.
In that vein, we are embracing the new concept of OTC devices, hoping that this will afford many more people better hearing and a better life.
Therefore, we decided to start a program that will allow us to optimize your OTC devices by offering our professional services.
AVI is offering the following services to improve your satisfaction and success with OTC hearing devices:
- Full professional audiological diagnosis evaluation of your hearing
- Examination of the status of the ear canal to assure no earwax impaction and earwax management
- Consultation regarding various OTC device choices based on your hearing evaluation and based on your lifestyle and expectations
- Training on proper use and insertion of the OTC devices
- Various maintenance and service package options
Still Confused About The Best Hearing Aids For You?
Professional testing with a hearing treatment plan put together and implemented by a personal audiologist will reduce the requests for others to repeat themselves and also helps with many more health-related issues.
Schedule your hearing test with us and you will learn your level of hearing loss immediately and (likely) what is causing it, and you can ask all the questions you like about the best hearing treatment plan for you alone while here.
I look forward to supporting you on your hearing journey.