• OTC hearing aids treat adults 18 and over with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
  • While OTC options make hearing aids more accessible, the devices lack some of the features available in traditional hearing aids.
  • All patients experiencing hearing loss should receive a professional hearing exam before purchasing an OTC hearing aid.

In October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the guidelines required by the over-the-counter hearing aid act. As a result, adults 18 and over with mild-to-moderate hearing loss can obtain FDA-approved OTC hearing aids without a prescription.

The new, more accessible devices offer significant benefits but aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone struggling to hear.

How Are Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Different?

OTC hearing aids employ technology similar to that of traditional hearing aids to amplify sounds and reduce background noise. Yet unlike standard hearing aids, their use is limited to adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss who don’t have complex ear conditions.

Prescribed, programmable hearing aids treat all hearing loss levels. In contrast, OTC devices have fewer customization options and features. Fortunately, they’re also significantly less expensive and more accessible than traditional hearing aids.

OTC device users should plan on using an app for making adjustments to amplification and sound quality, which makes OTC hearing aids better suited to users who are comfortable with a smartphone.

OTC hearing aids are similar to OTC eyeglasses, also known as readers. Readers help people who struggle with reading up close. However, they can’t take the place of prescription eyewear.

Likewise, OTC hearing aids offer many of the benefits of traditional hearing aids in a more affordable and accessible option that may not suit all users.

Who Is a Good Candidate for OTC Hearing Aids?

The best candidates for OTC hearing aids have mild-to-moderate hearing loss and no complicating medical conditions. Mild hearing loss means a person can’t hear sounds under 25 decibels, such as leaves rustling, feet shuffling, birds chirping, or whispered conversations. Often, people lose the ability to hear high-frequency sounds first.

Those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss may hear well in quiet environments and when talking one-on-one but struggle with background noise or when the person speaking is facing the other way.

The National Institute on Aging reports that the average person delays seeking help for hearing loss symptoms for up to ten years. During that period, they are more likely to experience depression, early cognitive decline, and an increased risk of falling.

One of the goals of making OTC hearing aids accessible is to encourage those with hearing loss to receive help sooner. While they offer fewer features than traditional hearing aids, they give users who suffer from hearing loss but find traditional solutions cost-prohibitive a less expensive option.

Why Do People Choose OTC Hearing Aids?

The main reasons hearing aid users choose OTC devices are cost and convenience.

Lower Cost

Unlike devices requiring a hearing aid prescription, OTC options should provide substantial savings. As Medicare and private insurers often don’t cover hearing devices, OTC hearing aids make hearing assistance a viable option for many in need.

Prescription hearing aids are expensive, averaging $2,000 per device or $4,000 for a pair. In comparison, OTC options can start as low as $200. Additionally, as OTC hearing aids increase competition in the hearing aid market, all hearing aids may experience a lower average cost.


Most traditional hearing aids are ordered through your hearing aid doctor once they’ve tested your hearing. They also require fitting adjustments when the devices arrive. OTC hearing aids are available for immediate purchase at many retailers and don’t require a special fitting.

However, it’s worth noting that working with an in-person audiologist to customize and fit your prescription or non-prescription hearing aid will ensure that you maximize the comfort and benefits of your device. At Arcade Hearing Aid Center, you get the best of both options.

Am I a Candidate for Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?

The best way to determine your eligibility for an over-the-counter hearing aid is by getting a hearing exam from an audiologist. Patients who self-prescribe OTC hearing aids may have an underlying condition that goes undiagnosed.

It’s difficult to determine the cause of hearing loss without a professional evaluation, and symptoms such as pain, ringing in the ear, dizziness, or hearing loss in only one ear may indicate a medical cause.

The following struggles may indicate that you have severe hearing loss, which means that an OTC device won’t meet your needs:

  • Requiring hearing assistance in all situations
  • Trouble hearing even when there’s no background noise
  • Needing to set the television or phone at a high volume to hear it

Unfortunately, not all OTC hearing aids are returnable, so a thorough evaluation and diagnosis are essential to ensure that you purchase a suitable device without wasting money on a product you can’t use.

Help to Obtain Hearing Aids

At Arcade Hearing Aid Center in Santa Monica, CA, we offer our patients a wide range of devices, including less expensive prescription hearing aids, OTC hearing aids, and earbud-style listening devices.

Schedule your appointment with our skilled audiologists today to understand the hearing loss you’re experiencing and determine the best hearing aids to meet your needs.