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FDA: Hearing aids will be available for purchase over-the-counter from mid-October

TEANECK, NJ — It will soon be easier, and potentially cheaper, to buy hearing aids.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Americans will be able to buy the devices over-the-counter starting in mid-October.

READ MORE: FDA moves to allow many Americans to buy hearing aids without a prescription

The FDA estimates that approximately 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Among them, only 1 in 5 receives the help they need.

“A significantly small fraction of people who could benefit from hearing aids get and use them,” said Dr. Sujana Chandrasekhar, otologist at ENT and Allergy Associates.

Parts of the reason are a small number of manufacturers and cost. Hearing aids often cost over $5,000.

Without them, studies have found increased depression, anxiety, and even an increased risk of dementia.

“You can make your quality of life much better if you identify your hearing loss and then improve it,” Chandrasekhar said.

President Joe Biden said in a statement, “As of mid-October, Americans will be able to purchase more affordable over-the-counter hearing aids at pharmacies and stores across the country.”

The new FDA rule would apply to people over 18 with mild to moderate hearing loss. Anyone under the age of 18 or with a severe loss will still need a prescription device.

The option of stocking hearing aids on store shelves is not for everyone.

Michael Fedida, owner of J&J Pharmacy in Teaneck, says they won’t have the devices in stock, at least not in the near future.

“It’s the kind of item, I think, if you put 20 different designs on the shelf and someone buys one, chances are they’ll come back. ‘It doesn’t work for me, I’m not happy with it, I want my money back,” he told CBS2’s Kevin Rincon.

Fedida has owned the J&J Pharmacy for 35 years and himself has been using a hearing aid for seven years.

“Without them, I can’t really function well. I can’t hear my wife. I can’t hear my kids,” he said. “I couldn’t take a prescription over the phone from a doctor. I would be afraid to hear the wrong medicine, the wrong dose.”

He hopes the technology will improve but fears a lot of trial and error.

Some medical professionals, including Dr. Enrique Perez of Mount Sinai, are concerned about self-diagnosis.

“You want to make sure it’s not something that ends up hurting patients,” he said. “Some sort of questionnaire, like, where it might trigger red flags, etc., for the patient to understand that look, that’s something you should probably go see somebody, just have a formal assessment.”

He says his biggest frustration is knowing the problem and identifying the solution, but the cost gets in the way.

Keep in mind that hearing aids aren’t covered by Medicare, so this might be an answer for some.


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