Hearing aid experts always recommend testing before buying over-the-counter devices


ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Two hearing aid experts say those interested should take a hearing test from a professional before buying the new over-the-counter devices.

“Otherwise you’re just guessing your hearing,” said Charles Winters of Winters Hearing Aid Service. “And [the hearing aids] will probably never work for you.

Both Winters and audiologist Dr. Karen Lemme said the hearing aids, which range in price from around $75 to over $2,000, are for mild to moderate hearing loss. Lemme, owner of Lemme Audiology Associates, compared them to non-prescription reading glasses, in that they are useful on occasion.

“People who rely on hearing aids every day and put them on in the morning and take them out at night, those are probably not good candidates,” Lemme said. “But if you say, ‘I just need something once in a while when I’m going out with friends when I’m doing something, I’m just starting to notice problems, you’d probably be a good candidate.

Lemme added that a prior hearing test is important to rule out other things that might need additional medical attention, such as more severe hearing loss, sudden hearing loss, earwax or fluid buildup.

While Lemme said prescription hearing aids are fitted and programmed specifically for the patient by an audiologist, over-the-counter devices are essentially all DIY devices, which is why she said those interested should research, read reviews, and even ask their doctor for recommendations.

They can also use the results of their hearing test to find out which settings or products would best suit their needs.

Winters and Lemme said most OTCs are set up by connecting the device to your smartphone via Bluetooth and an app with a built-in test.

But Winters said these tests can be inaccurate, especially for those who aren’t as tech-savvy. And if the device is set up incorrectly, it could be set too loud and cause even more hearing loss.

“[The FDA] hasn’t decided how much power they’ll allocate to these devices,” Winters said, adding that the FDA has a meeting scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4, where he believes they will make that decision.

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Lemme and Winters also said it’s important to make sure the device also comes with a good return plan in case it doesn’t fit or ring properly in the ears.

You can currently buy over-the-counter hearing aids at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Best Buy.


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