Hearing Aids Hit U.S. Over-the-Counter Market

There is good news for older adults who may have been putting off getting a hearing aid because of the high costs.  Beginning Monday, October 17, hearing aids will be available to buy over the counter across the U.S. following a recent Food and Drug Administration rule change. 

According to NPR Health, the FDA shift represents a significant change that allows people with mild to moderate hearing loss to skip the doctor’s office and buy a hearing aid directly from a retailer.   If you find yourself having difficulty hearing others on the telephone, or in a group of people, or need to turn up the volume on the television louder than those nearby, you may be a candidate for OTC hearing aids.  These aids will not be appropriate for people with a severe hearing impairment or for children. 

People can still seek a hearing evaluation from an audiologist who will conduct a medical exam, and prescribe and fit a device if needed.   There are advantages to seeing a doctor first, including professional fitting based on individual needs and having an expert monitor your hearing loss over time. 

However, without the need for a doctor’s visit, and a lower price point, more people with hearing loss will be encouraged to get help.  Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation when people can’t participate in conversations and may contribute to cognitive decline.   The prices of OTC hearing aids will range widely and consumers should do their research about return policies and the operation of the hearing aid – some require the use of a smartphone app to make adjustments, and batteries may be either long-lasting or rechargeable.  

Personal sound amplification products(PSAPs) should not be confused with hearing aids, these products are already sold over the counter for people with normal hearing who want to amplify sounds.   According to Reuters, the new FDA rule is expected to save consumers about $2,800 for a pair of hearing aids.   Walgreens plans to start selling the Lexie Lumen hearing aid that uses Bose technology for $799 and Best Buy will start selling Resound, owned by Jabra, on October 24. 

Remember, it will take time and patience to adjust to a new hearing aid – it can take up to a month to become accustomed to sounds that have been muffled for years.  Learn more about OTC hearing aids by following this link to the FDA website. The New York Times Wirecutter has tested hearing aids and PSAPs over the past two years and created a guide to help people choose the best product for their needs.