Are Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Right for Me? : The Hearing Journal

Journal Logo

Patient Handout

Are Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Right for Me?

Kozelsky, Joseph D.

Author Information
The Hearing Journal 76(03):p 7, March 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000922304.83053.43
  • Free

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are now available to consumers and are recommended for some adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Various advice has been published online and elsewhere on how to determine if you are a potential candidate for the newly available devices. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, you may have mild-to-moderate hearing loss if (

  • You have trouble understanding conversations in groups, with background noise, or when you can’t see who is talking.
  • You have trouble hearing on the telephone.
  • You need to turn up the volume of the television, or radio loud enough for others to complain.
  • Your friends or family complain that you don’t understand speech and ask them to repeat often.

Effective Listening Distance as a Degree of Hearing Loss


Potential OTC hearing aid consumers should also consider their perceived reduction in effective listening distance. Normal hearing is based on the ability to hear a softly spoken voice in quiet 20 feet away. If you must be closer than 20 feet from another speaker in order to hear a soft voice, you might very well have hearing loss.

Adults with the ability to hear others at a distance of 10 to 15 feet in a good listening situation are likely the best candidates for OTC hearing aids. People whose listening distance is reduced to 5 to 10 feet would fall in the early moderate range and might potentially be candidates for OTC devices, however, individuals with moderately severe hearing losses who need to be very close to the source of what they are listening to are not good candidates for OTC hearing aids because the amount of amplification available in OTC devices is limited.


The average living room is 16 feet X 20 feet. As such, effective listening distance is relatively easy to determine simply by engaging in a conversation in the living room in quiet with friends or family and noting how close you need to be to them to hear easily without struggling. Someone with normal hearing should be able to hear well from virtually any place in the living room. If you find that you are struggling when the others are not, then you may very well be a candidate for OTC hearing aids.

On the other hand, if you have trouble hearing someone from across the table either at home or when out at a restaurant, then it is likely that your hearing loss is far too advanced for OTC devices.


If you find you are having difficulty hearing in any of the above situations, you should seek a hearing evaluation from a licensed audiologist to determine that you are a good candidate for OTC hearing aids. A good place to go for this might be a nearby college or university clinic or a local audiology practice. Make sure you indicate that you want a baseline or reference audiogram because of an interest in OTC hearing aids. Hearing evaluations are commonly covered by many health insurances.

Finally, keep in mind that if you are struggling with your OTC hearing aids or run into some technical difficulties, there is much that an audiologist can do to help. If possible, it’s best to seek assistance while you are still within your trial period.

Copyright © 2023 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.