It’s official—the FDA has approved over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids! So, what does this mean? The World Health Organization estimates that by 2050 nearly 2.5 billion people will have some degree of hearing loss. For anyone currently experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss (and, as a 34-year-old, I’m actually in that category) it’s a big deal. 

OTC hearing aids will be available in stores on October 17th, and while we have much to learn about the quality and affordability of these products, we expect the change to make better hearing accessible to a wider population.

How will pricing compare to prescribed hearing aids?

  • Many prescription hearing aids cost $5,000 and up

  • OTC hearing aids are expected to cost only one-tenth as much

  • Prices are expected to decrease further after the new rule takes effect

Who should use OTC hearing aids?

OTC hearing aids were designed to help people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. 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 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.

If your symptoms go beyond the ones described above—for example, if you struggle to hear in a quiet environment—it would be wise to speak with a hearing care professional. Learn more about how Medicare coverage for hearing aids works here.

Things to consider before purchasing OTC hearing aids

When shopping for a pair of OTC hearing aids, Uncle Sam recommends asking the following questions:

  • Is there a free trial period, or money-back return policy? Many companies are offering 100-day trials to give you a little more peace-of-mind around the purchase.

  • Does it need a smartphone, app, or computer to install, operate, and customize to my needs?

  • Is it compatible with cell phones, or smartphones?

  • Does it have connectivity via Bluetooth or telecoil to a smartphone, computer, or listening system?

  • Can the hearing aid’s amplification be adjusted? How do you control feedback?

  • Is it water/sweat resistant?

  • How does it control, reduce, or block out background or wind noise?

  • How long is the battery life? Can it be recharged?

I’ll update this article as we receive more questions and learn more about this exciting healthcare development!

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