CLEVELAND — Northeastern Ohio seniors like Richard Masters are encouraged by the FDA’s new rule allowing over-the-counter hearing aids to be sold without a prescription, but said there are things consumers should keep in mind before buying.
Masters told News 5 that he has relied on hearing aids for more than a decade and believes the price reduction created by over-the-counter hearing aids will help thousands of local consumers now be able to afford the hearing aid they need.
The FDA reports that over-the-counter hearing aids will cost between $200 and $1,000, as opposed to the typical price for a prescribed unit in the range of $3,000 to $5,000.
“I’ve had hearing issues since I was 14,” Masters said. “It’s always embarrassing to have to repeat things.”
“I’m very grateful that we have something more reasonable, I had to use insurance and pay out of pocket, but a lot of people can’t afford that kind of thing. As an individual, you have to be aware of yourself and what is best for you,” he added.
Erin Lally, director of the Donna Smallwood Activity Center in Parma, told News 5 that dozens of seniors at her facility will benefit from the FDA’s new rule, which allows over-the-counter hearing aids to be sold to people 18 and older, but said consumers should understand the functions and capabilities of a hearing aid before making a purchase.
“I thought that was great because there are very few insurance plans that cover hearing aids,” Lally said. “So it opens up the possibility for people to get them who wouldn’t otherwise consider getting them.”
“Consumers need to be educated about hearing aids like anything else and be aware not to give out personal information. Make sure you’re working with a reputable manufacturer and know the manufacturer’s limitations,” Lally added. “What are their policies, can you return a hearing aid if it doesn’t work or doesn’t fit you. Try to buy from a reliable store like Walmart or Walgreens.
Sarah Sydlowski, director of audiology at the Cleveland Clinic, urges over-the-counter shoppers to always get an audiology exam if they can.
“You should never use any device without first taking a hearing test,” Sydlowski said. “I think over-the-counter hearing aids will be very appropriate for people who may not have been ready to take the big step to see an audiologist.”
Tanisha Hill, clinical manager for the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, also recommends getting a hearing test and trying out a hearing aid before purchasing.
“Not getting the right hearing aid that fits you properly and knowing how it works is a problem,” Hill said. does not fit properly. It would be nice if they could have the ability to fit these things in their ears and try them out before they buy them.”
“Buy from places like Walmart and Walgreens and your pharmacy, they’ll work with accredited sellers who have gone through the correct process, you could potentially run into a problem if you buy online,” Hill added.
Information on the senior resources of the Donna Smallwood activity center in Parma can be found here.