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Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Frequently Asked Questions

 

What are OTC hearing aids?

In the US, The Food and Drug Administration’s recent rule has expanded access to hearing aids by creating a new category of hearing aids: over the counter (OTC) hearing aids. They can be purchased by consumers in retail stores and online and do not require a physician or audiologist visit before purchase.

OTC hearing aids were implemented to help assist adults with a perceived mild-to-moderate degree of hearing loss. An OTC hearing aid may help enhance speech and provide improvements in communication for people who are experiencing difficulty with hearing.

 

Devices traditionally known as hearing aids are now available as “prescription hearing aids.” OTC hearing aids have limited loudness output and features compared with prescription hearing aids. Both categories of devices share some of the same features, however the amount of customisation, functions, and computer processing varies greatly between them.

 

The variety, quality and functions of OTC hearing aids changes weekly so we tested the devices to ensure that we are providing a high-quality device. The OTC hearing aids are actual hearing aids unlike some of the devices purchased on the internet.

 

Are OTC hearing aids effective?

A recent article in the American Medical Association journal found then equally as effective as hearing aids fitted by an Audiologist¹ and especially useful for the elderly, who often do not need many of the advanced features offered in prescription hearing aids.²

Do the hearing aids fit everyone?

 

No. OTC hearing aids are designed for mild to moderate hearing losses. Our trained staff will help you decide if an OTC hearing aid is right for you. If you have a severe or complex hearing loss, we will recommend that you see an audiologist.

 

OTC Hearing aids also do not have advanced functionality like Bluetooth and rechargeability. They are just designed to help you hear better.

An audiologist can then help you determine if you need a consultation with an otologist (ear physician). In some cases, you will be asked to provide a hearing test.

Where can I get a hearing test.

 

• Some Hearing NZ branches offer hearing testing.

• Your local audiologists/hearing centres.

 

Can children use OTC hearing aids?

 

No, OTC hearing aids are for people over the age of 18. Children require special techniques performed by a licensed and trained audiologist to properly program hearing aids to accurate settings. They also need routine follow-ups to monitor for progress and to ensure speech and language milestones are met.

 

Why should I consider going to Hearing NZ for OTC hearing aids?

 

Over the counter hearing aids are not doing that well in the US. We conducted research to find out why and learned that most people wanted support when purchasing a hearing aid. They did not have the confidence to program the hearing aid themselves or choose a quality option.

 

Hearing NZ developed a hybrid model. Our branches have been working in the community and care facilities since 1932 helping people with hearing loss and helping with the care and maintenance of hearing aids. We are working with a major manufacture to ensure that you get a quality device that is proven to be effective and fitted by a trained person in the fitting of that device.

 

There were also other factors that were important for people.

 

Durability and Cost

 

Is there a trial period with an option to return the devices? Yes. We offer the same 30-day trial period that you receive for any hearing aid.

How much does it cost? Is that for one device or for a pair? The OTC hearing aids are sold as a pair. For RRP please contact your local Hearing Association for further details about these very affordable hearing aids.

Can I get a subsidy from the Government? Unfortunately, no. The subsidy is only available for devices fitted by a member of the NZ Audiology society. WINZ funding may be available. Ask your local Hearing Association.

Is there a warranty that covers the OTC hearing aid? Yes. The devices come with a 3-year manufactures warranty.

Can I get the device repaired if it stops working? Yes. Often hearing aids just need to be serviced and that can be done inhouse but if not, we can send it away for repairs.

What if it doesn’t fit in my ear? The hearing aids fit majority of ears and we have several different options to choose from to ensure that it does. We do acknowledge that the over the counter hearing aids are not for everyone and we will refer you to an audiologist.

Is it waterproof? They are water resistant so accidently going into the shower should not ruin them, but we recommend you take them out as soon as possible.

Can I buy just one aid, or do I have to purchase as a pair? In 90% of the time two hearing aids are recommended because the hearing is usually the same in both ears and two ears always work better than one. There are cases where one hearing aid would be recommended due to a difference in hearing. In those cases, you should be seen by an audiologist or ENT prior to purchasing an OTC device.

Ease of Use and Function

• Do I need to have a smartphone to use the OTC hearing aids? No. We will program the hearing aids. However, if you want to make changes, you will need to have a smartphone and we will help you with the App if necessary.

Do they work with both iPhone and Android phones? Yes.

Are the devices rechargeable or does it require weekly battery changing? They will require weekly battery changing. Batteries are available through Hearing NZ branches or on our website.

 

Who should buy an OTC hearing aid?

 

OTC hearing aids are designed for people whose hearing is not bad enough to warrant thousands of dollars or just need a more cost-effective option. OTC hearing aids are often thought of as ‘starter’ hearing aids. People can experience the benefit of hearing without having a complicated device or feeling pressure to purchase an expensive device they are unsure they need.

 

Hearing NZ also has branches where prescription hearing aids are not easily available. We have a long history of working in care facilities that require ongoing support - which we are already providing.

 

Hearing aids are not accessible for many NZ’ers and we know hearing is too important for people’s health and wellbeing. We would want to make sure you will have a successful outcome.

 

Helping You Set Up or Use Your OTC Hearing Aid

 

We can help you navigate installation of an App and make sure the devices are properly seated in your ears. We provide instructions on the care and maintaining of your devices. We also help with warranty repairs if necessary.

 

1 De Sousa, K. C., Manchaiah, V., Moore, D. R., Graham, M. A., & Swanepoel, D. W. (2023). Effectiveness of an over-the-counter self-fitting hearing aid compared with an audiologist-fitted hearing aid: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, 149(6), 522-530.

 

2. B McPherson & ETL Wong (2005) Effectiveness of an affordable hearing aid with elderly persons, Disability and Rehabilitation, 27:11, 601-609, DOI: 10.1080/09638280400019682

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