Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: Know your Options
Recently, you may have started to hear about “OTC” or “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids.” It is estimated that approximately 70% of people who could benefit from hearing aids do not use them. One reason for this could be the cost of purchasing hearing aids, which is typically not covered by health insurance.
In October 2021, the FDA formally proposed a rule to establish a new OTC hearing aid category. This would allow individuals to purchase OTC devices in stores or online without seeing a hearing healthcare professional. The FDA is currently reviewing public comments and is expected to issue a final rule sometime this year.
Over-the-counter hearing aids may be an option for adults with a perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. These devices will usually be preset and have limited settings for the user to adjust themselves. OTC hearing aids may be a good first step for some people, but they are not designed to help every kind of hearing loss. Individuals who have more than moderate hearing loss will not receive enough amplification from OTCs to improve their hearing. Moreover, OTC devices are not appropriate for children.
Even if you purchased a pair of OTC devices, you would still benefit from seeing an audiologist. It is important to have your hearing tested annually so that you are aware of your hearing levels and to make sure your hearing loss is not medically treatable. It is possible you simply have wax in your ears and that can create a temporary hearing loss.
Many studies have linked hearing loss to depression, social isolation, and even dementia. It is important that someone with hearing loss do what they can to improve their hearing abilities. Some people may benefit from OTC devices while other people prefer to work with a trusted professional to make sure they are receiving the best care for their hearing loss. Hearing aids are more than just an earpiece. It is important that they are properly fit and programmed for each individual’s specific hearing loss to ensure they are receiving the maximum benefit.
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