Over-the-counter or prescription hearing aids

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If you still have difficulty hearing after using the built-in device settings, you can find an audiologist willing to help you install over-the-counter hearing aids. Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, predicts that more audiologists will offer this service as over-the-counter options become available.

  • Prescription hearing aids: A hearing care professional will program your hearing aids to ensure they fit comfortably in your ears and provide the maximum benefit. He or she will also help you practice putting them on and taking them off and show you how to adjust settings for different environments. You’ll have regular follow-up appointments for fine-tuning and maintenance, and you can come back at no extra cost whenever you have a problem during the life of the device.

5. Over-the-counter hearing aids may possibly have new designs and look different from prescription hearing aids.

  • Over-the-counter hearing aids: At first, OTC devices may look a lot like the simplest prescription hearing aids. But experts say allowing manufacturers to market directly to consumers will promote competition and possibly spur innovation in hearing aid design.

Nicholas Reed, audiologist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-author of the new AARP report Hearing loss for dummies, predicts that allowing over-the-counter devices will lead to “crazy technological changes” related to what a hearing aid will look like in the next 10 or 20 years.

  • Prescription hearing aids: If you get a prescription pair, you’ll have a range of design options, including custom behind-the-ear, in-ear, and low-profile styles. With the help of an audiologist, you can try out different comfort and fit models.

Michelle Crouch is a contributing writer who has covered health and personal finance for some of the nation’s leading consumer publications. His work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, Prevention, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

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