Hearing aids are now available without a prescription — what you need to know

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With the advent of over-the-counter hearing aids, there’s a lot to sift through in terms of types of devices and what to look for. Here is a guide to get started.

The Food and Drug Administration released the final rule in August, opening the door to over-the-counter hearing aid sales on Oct. 17 nationwide — without a prescription. Hearing aids can now cost hundreds of dollars, rather than several thousand. The White House has estimated that people could save nearly $3,000 when buying over-the-counter devices.

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According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) age 18 and older report hearing problems. OTC devices are not intended for children or adults with severe hearing difficulties, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Although hearing aids cannot restore normal hearing, they can improve your hearing by amplifying the sounds you have trouble hearing. according to the Mayo Clinic. OTC hearing aids make sounds louder so adults are better able to listen, communicate and participate in everyday activities.

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The impact of hearing loss can be significant and it is crucial to address it. If you have hearing loss, you have a higher chance of developing dementia, according to a Lancet 2020 Commission Report which listed hearing loss as one of the main risk factors for dementia.

Now, with over-the-counter availability, adults will be able to try out a device for themselves rather than consulting a doctor and/or audiologist.

“It’s good to have a robust market. We can see some products that meet people in a rudimentary way. It democratizes what you get and offers a whole pyramid of care. Before, we just had a fence — and you were either on one side or the other,” said Nicholas Reed, assistant professor at the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Consumers should look for the words “over-the-counter hearing aids” on the packaging, which distinguishes them from a personal amplification device, which is regulated as a consumer electronic device, not a medical device regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

On a note of caution, Janice Lintz, a hearing access consultant, said consumers should be careful when buying over-the-counter aids, as there are no performance tests on the products. and no data available to compare models.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you buy a hearing aid without data. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Lintz said. “It’s essential to bring prices down, but we just have to make sure they are what they are promised to be. We have to make sure that what you buy is not waste.

An over-the-counter hearing aid may be cheaper than seeing a doctor and audiologist.

According to AARP, insurance coverage for hearing care is limited because many commercial health insurance plans do not cover hearing services or hearing aids. Traditional health insurance does not cover hearing tests except in certain circumstances. The program also does not pay for hearing aids or hearing aid services. People with Medicare Advantage plans have limited coverage for hearing care, but may still face out-of-pocket costs.

Things to consider when buying OTC hearing aids:

First, rule out any minor, fixable ear problems like an abundance of earwax. If you have warning problems such as sudden hearing loss, ringing in your ears, or ear pain, seek medical attention.

OTC hearing aids are intended for mild to moderate hearing loss. “There are varying degrees of hearing loss, and while any amount makes a person eligible for hearing aids, the new over-the-counter variety is only available for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. “That’s why it’s important for people to see a professional and have an audiogram performed to determine their individual needs and treatment options,” said Robin Carson, expert audiologist for hearing care company Eosera.

“While switching to over-the-counter hearing aids may seem more convenient and also opens the door to new technological innovations, I would still strongly recommend seeking out a Doctor of Audiology to help patients make the best decisions to correct the hearing loss,” Carson said.

“There are many different types of hearing aids in terms of style, technology and manufacturer, and which one is best depends largely on each patient. Doctors can present a variety of options and advice on which one is right for you. best suited to the degree of hearing loss and lifestyle of the person.There is also a high level of care required to keep the devices working properly and to ensure proper fit, which is difficult to maintain without a professional. There should never be a one-size-fits-all approach,” Carson said.

Look for flexible return policies because it can take several weeks to get used to a hearing aid and fit it properly, said Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Unlike traditional prescription hearing aids, which have legally mandated trial periods in many states, there is no mandatory return window for over-the-counter hearing aids, said Lindsay Creed, audiologist and associate director or practices of audiology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. It will be up to manufacturers to set return policies, so make sure you know the policy before making your purchase, Creed suggested. “It’s kind of crazy that you can spend $1,000 on something and not be able to return it.”

Know who should NOT try to get an over-the-counter hearing aid. Top of the list: anyone under the age of 18, Creed said. Parents may think they are doing the right thing by getting a hearing aid for a hearing-impaired child or teen, but they may actually be doing more harm than good. “I worry about teenagers, I worry about parents who think they’re helping their child and just don’t know it might hurt them,” Creed said. “You can’t get your hearing back if you damage it beyond repair.”

Over-the-counter hearing aids are also not a good option for people whose hearing loss may be related to an underlying medical condition. This may be the case if you have symptoms such as ringing in one ear or hearing loss in only one ear. In these situations, consult a doctor first.

Check if the hearing aid needs additional devices to use, like a smartphone. “Some people may not be comfortable with this technology, so it wouldn’t be a good fit for them. Check to make sure you know what you’re buying,” Kelley said.

Where to buy an OTC hearing aid:

Walmart: The WMT retailer,
+0.72%
offers hearing aids ranging from $199 to $999 per pair. Options include top brands such as Bose-powered Lexie and HearX which will offer technologies such as Bluetooth and self-tuning app capabilities. Hearing aids are available at Walmart.com and at Walmart Vision Centers in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, as well as Sam’s Hearing Aid Centers Club. OTC hearing aids will soon be available at other Walmart Vision Centers nationwide, the company said.

Walgreens: The WBA pharmacy chain,
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will sell Lexie Lumen hearing aids at Walgreens stores nationwide and online for adults 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss. The cost is $799. Consumers can also purchase them online through Walgreens Find Care for $39 per month for 24 months. Each purchase includes a pair of hearing aids, batteries and accessories, and a 45-day money-back guarantee.

RESUME : The CVS pharmacy chain,
+1.78%
offers different makes and models ranging from $199 to $999 on CVS.com. CVS pharmacies will begin selling the devices in November.

Best Buy: Consumer electronics retailer BBY,
+3.54%
had over a dozen models listed on its website, including Lexie Hearing, Nuheara, Jabra Enhance Plus, Lucid Hearing, and Eargo. Prices ranged from around $200 to $2,950.

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