According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, around 37.5 million (15%) Americans over 18 have some trouble hearing, and hearing aids would benefit almost 29 million of them. Unfortunately, many who need hearing aids haven’t been able to afford them.
A new rule from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, effective late in 2022, created a category for a new type of over-the-counter hearing aids. Devices in this category are cheaper than those prescribed and fitted by audiologists. Last year, we posted about this legislation and wanted to share an update on it.
What Are Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?
Traditionally, people with hearing loss had to visit an audiologist to get hearing aids. Some have problems with only one ear, while others have issues with both.
People can experience varying degrees of hearing loss:
- Normal: -10 to 15 decibels (dB)
- Slight: 16 to 25 dB
- Mild: 26 to 40 dB
- Moderate: 41 to 55 dB
- Moderately severe: 56 to 70 dB
- Severe: 71 to 90 dB
- Profound: 91+
Prescription hearing aids cost between $2,000 and $7,000 per pair on average. These prices are often prohibitive, especially for people without health insurance that covers hearing aids.
With over-the-counter hearing aids:
- You won’t need hearing testing.
- There’s no need for a prescription.
- An audiologist doesn’t have to make fitting adjustments.
- You can purchase them online and in retail stores and some clinics.
- The average cost per pair may be approximately $1,000 per pair.
- You must fit and adjust the tuning them yourself.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates the quality of OTC hearing aids. The new rule sets design requirements and performance specifications for these devices.
Will Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Work for You?
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are affordable alternatives to prescribed devices for adults 18 and over with mild or moderate perceived hearing loss. If your hearing is worse, the OTC options won’t effectively help. Children aren’t candidates for OTC products.
You can still benefit from visiting an audiologist for a hearing test, even if you intend to purchase OTC rather than prescription hearing aids. Testing will determine the degree of your hearing loss, so you’ll know if OTC options will help you. You can ask your audiologist to help you select OTC hearing aids.
What Should You Look for in an Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid?
The market for these devices is new, and a wide range of options will likely be available. When selecting OTC hearing aids, look for those that:
- Fit your budget
- Have replaceable parts
- Have a warranty
- Are returnable
- Resist moisture
- Reduce wind and background noise
You’ll want comfortable devices that are easily maintained and cleaned. Don’t confuse OTC hearing aids with hearing amplifiers; the latter make all sounds louder. Amplifiers are best for those without hearing loss. Misusing them as a replacement for hearing aids may further damage your hearing.
Do You Have Questions About Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?
HEAR Center provides hearing-related services and devices to California residents. We can test your hearing and help you decide if over-the-counter hearing aids are right for you. If you’re not a suitable candidate, we can help you with prescription alternatives. For questions or appointment scheduling, call us at the number below, use the live chat, or email us.
Call or text: (626) 734-6555
Email us at: email@example.com
Chat us: https://direct.lc.chat/13342371/
Also, for more information about Audiology, please visit our webpage: https://www.hearcenter.org/services/audiology/