What Exactly Are "Over The Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids"?
"Over The Counter Hearing Aids", also known as "OTC Hearing Aids", will be widely marketed as the best thing since sliced bread. But are they? How did "OTC Hearing Aids" come to be? What are they? And do these devices deliver what they promise, or do they end up hurting the very people they are vastly marketed to while helping the companies that manufacture and market them? To fully explain this, you have to understand a little background of how "OTC Hearing Aids" came to be (in a non-political straight-forward explanation).
Real Hearing Aids are FDA regulated complex medical devices and should be treated as such, for misdiagnosis, improper testing, improper component selection, improper fitting, and short cuts can lead to numerous problems that many wearers figure they just have to live with without realizing the deficiencies, drawbacks and even harm these could cause, both short-term and long-term. Therefore the long-time strict FDA Hearing Aid regulations, FDA Hearing Aid manufacturer regulations AND strict individual State regulations for Hearing Aid Providers, and why Hearing Aid Providers are licensed and regulated in all 50 states, and rightly so. Personal Sound Amplifiers (PSAP's) have been sold over the counter for years as Assistive Listening Devices and are not able to (nor are they intended to) take the place of Hearing Aids, as they have only a limited frequency spectrum, limited frequency responses and limited signal strength. In short, PSAP's can only make things sound a little louder and are therefore not subject to these strict regulations.
Enter big corporations like BOSE Corporation (headquartered in Massachusetts). BOSE has been a campaign donor of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for years. In early 2017 alone, BOSE spent over $50,000 lobbying Senator Warren, and in March 2017 she introduced the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act. Senator Warren, with hopes to run for President, used this opportunity and fought hard for the passage of her bill under the guise of trying to help seniors, when in fact it muddled the waters and creates confusion among these very seniors she supposedly was trying to help. Some Senators saw through it, but the bill was conveniently and quietly packaged into an FDA user fee bill, where voting for that bill automatically also passed Senator Warren's act. The passing of the bill will allow BOSE and many others with financial interests to market their PSAP's under the guise of "Over The Counter Hearing Aids" or "OTC Hearing Aids". BOSE, Sony and a slew of other companies will be able to enter the market with their "OTC Hearing Aid" products even though the FDA will strictly limit the frequency response and gain levels of "OTC Hearing Aid" products to keep them close to the non-harmful PSAP levels previously allowed for over the counter PSAP Assistive Listening Devices. Even so, the objective of legally creating confusion for the benefit of their companies has been achieved. These industry giants can now massproduce devices and legally call them "OTC Hearing Aids" and can simply tell you that you can "adjust them", and they can soon sell them to the targeted senior citizen population at Walmart, BestBuy, Walgreens, QVC, infomercials, 30 second "call now" commercials, e-mail spam, internet ads, etc. Even insurance companies will have subsidiaries selling "over-the-counter hearing aids" in order to limit the costs for the insurance company, which may claim this satisfies any insurance benefit they may be obligated to cover. So, the goals of being able to create market confusion and increase profits by unfairly (and until now illegally) targeting the senior citizen population with the confusing "Over The Counter Hearing Aid" marketing name, has been achieved. And they WILL target the most vulnerable with fancy marketing ploys, and HARD. Thanks to corporate greed and to Senator Warren.
So there you have it. Will "Over The Counter Hearing Aids" help SOME people? Yes, if that person is one of the lucky few whose hearing loss is minimal and uncomplicated. Will they help to the level that most hard-of-hearing people would want to be helped? No. All we can say publicly is "Remember the adage Let The Buyer Beware", and also remember John Ruskin's famous quote (mentioned in this website several times).
Let our NYS Licensed and National Board Certified hearing care provider here at the Herkimer Hearing Aid Center help you the way you SHOULD be helped, and get the results you WANT the first time, instead of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars first hoping for the best and receiving mostly frustration instead. For in the end you'll have spent more than was necessary by not coming here first. Focus on what you need and ignore the background noise of them trying to sell you things from all around you.
Herkimer Hearing Aid Center