OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids designed to allow adults with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase a device without consulting a hearing care professional or audiologist. Although this option is not yet available, it will probably be soon.
In 2017, Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Act. The law aims to make it easier for consumers to buy affordable hearing aids. Prior to this legislation, hearing aids were classified as Class I or II medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning consumers had to obtain a prescription from a licensed professional before purchasing them. . According to the American Academy of Audiology, four main issues indicate that Americans should be able to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids:
- Some people are unable to afford the current cost of hearing aids.
- Many insurance plans, including Medicare, do not cover hearing aids.
- Note that many Medicare Advantage programs offer certain benefits for hearing aids.
- Certain geographic areas have limited access to hearing care professionals.
- Consumers want to save time and money and have more control over their buying decisions.
Federal law of 2017 guarantees that OTC hearing aids will be safe and effective. It also establishes output limits and labeling requirements, and outlines requirements for purchasing hearing aids without a prescription by mail, in person, and online.
OTC hearing aids will use the same science-based technology as existing hearing aids, while giving users more purchasing options and the ability to customize the device. However, they are different from prescription hearing aids, which require a visit to an audiologist or hearing center each time you need an adjustment.
That said, a visit to an audiologist or hearing professional can be beneficial for some people, as these experts can program your hearing aids to meet your individual hearing needs, sometimes making major improvements to how your devices work. In some cases, you can opt for remote adjustments, where this service is performed through your hearing aid app.
Should I go to an audiologist or a hearing center to buy hearing aids?
To buy prescription hearing aids, you must work with an audiologist or hearing aid specialist.
You can currently purchase hearing aids direct to consumer from companies that do not require a visit to an audiologist or hearing center. Direct-to-consumer companies such as Eargo, Lively and Audicus offer hearing aids that generally cost less than traditional prescription hearing aids like those from ReSound and Oticon.
OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids. They are not yet available for purchase but will probably be soon. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says over-the-counter hearing aids will be FDA-regulated medical devices for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.