Adults who believe they have mild or moderate hearing loss can now buy over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids without seeing a hearing care provider, as of October 2022. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule is timely for an aging population: About 30 million people in the U.S. have hearing loss, but only 20% use hearing aids.
“Over-the-counter hearing aids could be the gateway hearing aid for people who have been reluctant to seek help. It actually may help normalize the idea of getting hearing aids,” says Lara Bruce, outreach manager at CaptionCall, which offers phones with a screen that creates real-time captions for phone calls. Another benefit: OTC options tend to be more affordable (as little as $250 per pair) than prescription devices, which cost up to $4,000.
Self-fit hearing aids can’t replace a prescription for different sound frequencies. A professional exam can also rule out other health issues. But some hearing care providers are partnering with OTC manufacturers, offering people a hearing test and the option of buying an OTC device, Bruce notes — “the best of both worlds.”