Can My Child Use Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?
When faced with the high price tag of hearing aids that are recommended by their child’s audiologist, many parents look for less-expensive alternatives. They may be fooled by what appears to be hearing aid equivalents at reduced prices. Many retailers sell over-the-counter (OTC) personal sound amplification products (PSPs) that look like hearing aids – but are not – at a fraction of those at the doctor’s office.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, PSPs are not made for those with hearing loss, but are designed to help people hear distant sounds. To compound confusion for consumers, in 2020, retailers can begin selling actual hearing aids to those age 18 or older.
Certainly, OTC sound amplifiers and hearing aids are appealing because they are inexpensive, so it’s vital for parents to understand the importance of their children using audiologist-prescribed hearing aids.
Audiologist-prescribed hearing aids vs. OTC devices
An audiologist-prescribed hearing aid is a miniature, complex computer that picks up various sounds and adjusts each to the exact level needed to match a child’s specific hearing loss pattern.
Using the results of your child’s hearing tests, your audiologist will choose a hearing aid based on several factors including the degree and type of your child’s hearing loss, your child’s physical activity and any other developmental delays. Each manufacturer and model are designed to address specific kinds of hearing loss and only an audiologist can determine which one is right for your child. An OTC device may only address one of your child’s needs.
Your child will likely use a behind-the-ear hearing aid, and the doctor will fit him or her for the visible plastic piece as well as the inner ear mold. This customized fit ensures the hearing aid stays in place and is comfortable, a big advantage over the one-size-fits-all approach of OTC options. The doctor will also periodically test the hearing aids and your child’s hearing function with them to ensure your child is receiving the maximum benefit from the hearing aids.
Benefits for children using custom hearing aids
Without intervention tools like hearing aids designed specifically for his or her hearing loss, your child is at further risk for developmental delays.
During the first 24 months of life, children are hitting milestones around speech and language that are directly tied to hearing. Into the toddler years, hearing is foundational to memory, thinking and reasoning for a child’s intellectual development. Consistently using audiologist-prescribed hearing aids is instrumental in these early years, and sets the stage for success as he or she gets older.
In the classroom, your child can be in school with kids his or her own age. Socially, children can develop relationships with peers and family just like their hearing counterparts. And finally, they can avoid the depression and isolation that often accompanies untreated hearing loss.
While the cost of hearing aids may seem overwhelming, don’t be discouraged. Many organizations provide pediatric hearing aid devices and audiology services at a dramatically reduced rate to those who are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise qualify for financial assistance.