Over the Counter (OTC) hearing aids will soon be available for purchase in stores and online without a prescription.

What used to be the only way to buy hearing aids would be from a professional hearing specialist. As of 2018, the FDA passed a bill that would allow the distribution of OTC hearing aids, or over-the-counter hearing aids. Hearingtracking.com states “Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids that will soon be available for purchase in stores and online without a prescription” (1). Although the bill has been passed, it not expected to take place until August of 2020.

The features of OTC will be:

  • The same “fundamental scientific technology as […} hearing aids”
  • Can purchase “over-the-counter, without the supervision, prescription, or other order, involvement, or the intervention of a licensed person, to consumers through in-person transactions, by mail, or online”
  • Available for adults, 18 years and older
  • For mild-to-moderate hearing loss (26-55 dB)
  • Like normal hearing aids, the OTC hearing aids will have customizable settings
  • More advanced versions of the OTC hearing aids are supposed to have self-assessments
  • Expected to have wireless technology capabilities

Why are over-the-counter hearing aids a thing?

As the number of individuals who need hearing aids are growing, there is more awareness surrounding hearing aids and high cost of buying them. Much like new technology, such as phones or computers, hearing aids are constantly updating with new and “necessary” features that often come at a hefty price, ~$2000 and up.

Should you get over-the-counter hearing aids?

The short answer: no. It is very important to have input from a licensed hearing specialist. An audiologist is an important part of diagnosing and treating hearing loss. By cutting off their specialty, the individual loses the concise, professional opinion. This prescription-less phenomena is not a new idea – glasses that were once prescribed by a licensed optometrist can now be bought at the dollar store. While it is exciting to be able to having hearing aids in an instant, it is important to do your research and consult an audiologist before making any major decisions!

Over the Counter Hearing Aids: Pros and cons?

Over the Counter Hearing Aids: What are the pros and cons?

Tackling hearing aids can seem daunting especially with the new popularity of over-the-counter hearing aids. Navigating the hearing aid market is challenging when you want to ensure you are receiving an adequate device without overbuying. So what are the pros and cons of the over-the-counter hearing aids versus the hearing aids you can buy from a professional?

Over The Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

These hearing aids are typically marketed in magazines, commercials, or targeted advertising for elderly people. The hearing aids are not individualized for a person or their hearing loss. They cannot be manipulated by hearing care professionals. Typically these hearing aids are just amplifiers and not complex medical devices. Over-the-counter hearing aids are “one size fits all” meaning they cannot be adjusted or changed for an individual.

Medical Device Hearing Aids

These hearing aids are the ones that you can purchase from a hearing care professional like an audiologist. They are not the hearing aids that are typically advertised and are usually more expensive devices. These hearing aids are highly individualized for a person, their hearing loss, and their hearing lifestyle. They come in different technology levels which can influence the price of the device. Medical Device Hearing Aids are accommodating to ALL hearing losses and types and are monitored by a hearing care professional.

Recently President Joe Biden signed an executive order creating “the wide availability of low-cost hearing aids” in order to give people the access they need to hear. These low-cost hearing aids fall under the classification of an over-the-counter hearing aid. So what are the pros and cons of each type of device?

OTC Pros

  • Affordable

OTC Cons

  • Not adjustable
  • Not individualized
  • Only helpful for specific types and degrees of hearing loss (flat mild hearing losses)
  • Not approved by the FDA
  • No care provider overseeing the use of the device
  • Difficult to maintain on your own

Medical Device Hearing Aids Pros

  • Adjustable and individualized
  • Helpful for all types and degrees of hearing loss
  • Approved by the FDA
  • Care Provider oversees fit and use of devices
  • Different technology levels for lifestyle

Medical Device Hearing Aids Cons

  • Expensive
  • Require maintenance appointments with the provider

The first step in the hearing aid process is understanding your hearing loss. Talk to your local hearing care professional for the best course of action for your specific loss whether that’s an OTC hearing aid or a medical device.