Hearing Aids Are About to Be Available OTC: Everything You Need to Know

For a very long time, hearing aids were not available to purchase over the counter. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a new rule will go into effect allowing adults to purchase hearing aids without a prescription. These hearing aids will be beneficial to individuals with hearing deficiencies ranging between mild and moderate.

According to the government, over 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. And many people can benefit from one of these devices. Thankfully, more options will come available as early as October. Recipients of the new devices have a lot of questions regarding when, where, and how to purchase them. Here is some of the information you need to know if are interested in receiving an OTC hearing aid:

How much will the OTC hearing aid cost?

While the prices are in discussion, it is estimated that they can run anywhere between $300 and $500. While this may seem like a lot of money, it is a lot cheaper than the current aids which can cost nearly $5,000. Some audiologists say the prices may drop even further as manufacturing begins. Seniors or anyone else with Medicare should check to see if the OTC hearing aid is covered. There are some Medicare Advantage plans that do cover both the price of the aid and exam. However, Medicare Part A and B do not.

Where will I be able to purchase the OTC hearing aid?

Thankfully, these hearing aids will be available at many stores, pharmacies, and even online. Hearing aids, just like other devices, may need some tweaking. The first one you get may not be the one you need. Be sure to understand the company's return policies before you buy. Some vendors may have a trial offer where you can use the device for a certain amount of time and then return or swap it out.

Should you get an OTC hearing aid?

The best way to know whether or not you should get an OTC hearing aid is by speaking with your doctor. They can always give you the best advice on which hearing aid is most beneficial for you. There may be many things to determine what type of hearing aid you need. Does hearing loss run in your family? Do you work a job that may have caused hearing loss over the years? Have you had an illness or some type of trauma that has affected your hearing? Just speak candidly with your otolaryngologist to get the best answers.

Are OTC hearing aids really worth it?

Only you can determine that. You will be the one using the aid, so only you can decide whether or not it suits your medical and budgetary purpose. However, if you have been experiencing hearing loss for a long time, it may be a good idea to invest in one. Missing out on conversations and having to keep your television or phone volume up high can be irritating. You can at the very least try one out to see how well you like it.

Are there any cons to purchasing OTC hearing aids?

There are pros and cons to everything. Rebecca Lewis, an audiologist with St. John's Health Center, says she is concerned that since these devices don't require having a hearing test before purchase that some people may abuse them.

"There are some people out there who may have diseases and other issues and not know it. Some have painful medical conditions and will make assumptions that will only make the situation worse," said Lewis.

It is her advice that individuals should always see an ear doctor before purchasing the device. You could very well have a treatable medical condition that doesn't require the use of a hearing device. Sometimes it can be something as simple as a wax build-up, according to Lewis.

The bottom line is to do your research. Speak with an audiologist and get an exam so you can find out exactly which type of hearing aid you need. Not all hearing aids are alike and they can also vary wildly in price. Also consider that the highest price may not be suitable for your needs. You may be able to find a moderate price aid to suit your purpose.

"It is estimated that about 16 percent of individuals between the age of 20 and 69 experience hearing loss but have never opted for using a hearing device," says Parmala Marx, Senior Audiologist at Staten Island University.

"We are hoping that these new devices make people more eager to get help for communicative disorders if they need it."

According to the FDA's ruling, it is believed that most people will save thousands of dollars.

"This is very encouraging news," says White House Economic Council Spokesperson Bryan Dees. "Once everything goes in place in October, we expect very good results."


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The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.