What to know about buying over-the-counter hearing aids : NPR
Starting Monday, the hearing aids will be available for purchase over-the-counter across the United States
The major change in hearing healthcare is due to a recent rule change by the Food and Drug Administration, which in August paved the way for the devices to be sold in retail stores without buyers needing to consult a doctor beforehand.
The move is being hailed as a victory for people with hearing loss, which affects millions of people across the country, but experts say customers should be careful about what products they buy as sales begin.
“I hate to use the words ‘buyer beware’, so it’s more like ‘buyer be educated’ about what you do, what your needs are,” said Kate Carr, president of the Hearing Industries Association, a trade group representing hearing aids. manufacturers.
You won’t need a prescription or exam to buy a hearing aid
The new rule applies to products aimed at adults who believe they have mild to moderate hearing loss.
This could include people who have trouble hearing in groups or on the phone, who need the TV volume turned up louder than others, and whose friends and family say they regularly don’t understand speech. or ask others to repeat themselves, according to the nonprofit. Hearing Loss Association of America.
Over-the-counter hearing aids will not be suitable for children or people with severe hearing loss.
Under the new rules, it is no longer necessary to undergo a medical examination, obtain a prescription or be fitted by an audiologist.
People can still get hearing aids by seeing a doctor first, and experts say there are benefits to this option, like being professionally fitted for a hearing aid based on your individual needs and having a doctor monitor the progression of your hearing loss.
But HLAA executive director Barbara Kelley said if the new rules encourage more people to buy hearing aids, that’s a good thing.
“When someone finds out they have hearing loss, they often wait five to seven years before getting a hearing aid,” Kelley told NPR.
“So if it inspires or motivates people because they see these hearing aids in the mainstream, it should be more affordable or at a different price point, they could take that first step sooner rather than later,” he said. she adds.
You’ll spend less on over-the-counter hearing aids, but it comes at a cost
In the past, the device itself was only about a third of what a person spent on getting a hearing aid. The rest of the price went to doctor’s appointments and other medical services, and Medicare and health insurance usually don’t cover the cost of hearing aids.
Now people with hearing loss could see a significant drop in what they can expect to pay for a hearing aid.
The White House estimates people could save nearly $3,000 when buying over-the-counter devices.
However, HIA’s Carr said hearing aids obtained through the traditional medical route aren’t always as expensive, and people who buy the devices over-the-counter won’t benefit from the advice of medical professionals.
(Senses. Elizabeth Warren and Charles Grassley found in a report earlier this year that the HIA was among the organizations that have made “serious attempts to undermine the effectiveness of over-the-counter hearing aids.” The HIA says now that she supports the new FDA rule.)
Sales should start soon. According to Reuters, drugstore chain Walgreens said it plans to sell Lexie Lumen hearing aids for $799. Walmart said it would start selling hearing aids in stores and online starting at $200.
There will be plenty of options, so it pays to do your research
The rule change means existing hearing aids as well as new products will be available for purchase in stores, pharmacies and online.
Experts urge customers to do their research. Company websites may contain more detailed information about their products.
Additionally, sellers are required to include full details regarding their return policy – if they have one – on the box. It can take three to four weeks to properly fit a hearing aid, according to the HLAA.
The association also suggests people consider whether the hearing aid requires the use of a smartphone to operate it and whether a battery is rechargeable or long-lasting.
In addition, consumers should be aware of the difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplification products, or PSAPs, which are currently sold without a prescription and are intended not for people with hearing loss, but rather for those with normal hearing who wish amplify sounds, like hunters. .