Cheaper over-the-counter hearing aids now available in US stores

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FILE – A person has a hearing aid placed in his ear. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Millions of Americans in need of hearing aids can now buy them without a prescription in the US – and probably at a much cheaper price.

Starting Monday, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy and Hy-Vee are now offering over-the-counter hearing aids in stores and online, the White House said.

A new class of hearing aids has been created under a rule finalized in August by the US Food and Drug Administration that does not require a medical exam, prescription and other specialty assessments. The devices are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing problems.

The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults could potentially benefit from a hearing aid, although only about a fifth of people with hearing problems currently use one.

Historically, cost has been a big hurdle. Americans can pay upwards of $5,000 for a hearing aid, between device and fitting services. Insurance coverage is limited and Medicare does not pay for hearing aids, only diagnostic tests.

The FDA first proposed the rule in 2021 after years of pressure from medical experts and consumer advocates to make the devices cheaper and easier to obtain.

The new over-the-counter status will not apply to devices for more severe hearing loss, which will remain prescription-only, officials said.

Where to buy over-the-counter hearing aids

This new class of hearing aids, sold online and over the counter in pharmacies and retailers, is expected to increase competition and lower costs, officials said.

According to the White House, at least five retailers are now selling the devices in-store:

  • Walgreens sells hearing aids in stores nationwide and online for $799 a pair, the White House said, noting that comparable models at Walgreens sold by specialists range from $2,000 to $8,000.
  • CVS sells over-the-counter hearing aids on CVS.com, with different model and price options, the White House said. CVS will also offer hearing aids at select CVS pharmacies starting in November.
  • Walmart offers an assortment of over-the-counter hearing aids at Walmart.com, SamsClub.com and at more than 1,000 Vision Centers at Walmart stores in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, the White House said. Additionally, 474 Sam’s Club Hearing Aid Center locations also sell the devices. Prices for available products range from $199 to $999 per pair, while according to Walmart, comparable prescription hearing aids cost between $4,400 and $5,500 per pair.
  • Best Buy sells nearly 20 different hearing aids online. By the end of October, it will offer hearing aids in nearly 300 stores across the United States, the White House said. The devices will cost between $200 and $3,000.
  • Hy-Vee sells over-the-counter hearing aids online and in 34 locations across Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, officials said. Hy-Vee plans to offer hearing aids in 100 locations by the end of 2022. Hy-Vee will offer four models that range in price from $499.99 to $999.99.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.

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