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!