Starting Monday, hearing aids will be available for purchase in stores and online without a prescription from a doctor.
The shift in hearing aids policy is due to a recent rule change by the Food and Drug Administration that officially went into effect on October 17. The new regulation creates a new class of hearing aids that don't require a medical exam, a prescription or other special evaluations.
It also will save millions of Americans hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in auditory health care expensive. Americans can pay more than $5,000 for a hearing aid, between the device and fitting services. Insurance coverage is limited and Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids, only diagnostic tests.
Who can get the new over-the-counter hearing aids?
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The devices are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing problems. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders, that includes people who have trouble hearing in groups or on the telephone, who need to turn up the TV volume louder than others and who regularly ask people to speak more clearly or talk louder.
The new over-the-counter status won’t apply to devices for more severe hearing loss, which will remain prescription only.
What to know when purchasing a new pair of OTC hearing aids
FDA officials said they expect to see increased competition from new manufacturers as well as new products from existing hearing aid makers.
Experts are urging people to research the products before buying.
Among questions to consider, ask what the return policy is, whether the hearing aid's batteries are replaceable or rechargeable batteries, if they are sweat or water-resistant and whether they pair to your smartphone or bluetooth?
The ruling also standardizes features for hearing aids. For example, all over-the-counter hearing aids must allow users to adjust the volume. Adjusting for volume may seem like an obvious feature, but there are a lot of choices available.
What stores or websites will sell OTS hearing aids?
According to Reuters, pharmacy chain Walgreens said it was planning to sell Lexie Lumen hearing aids for about $799. CVS and Best Buy will also sell the Lexie hearing aid.
Walmart reported it would begin selling an assortment of hearing aids in stores and online starting at $200. Sony plans to sell its self-fitting OTC hearing aid at Best Buy and other retailers for $999.