October 21, 2022 – This past Monday marked the long-awaited debut of over-the-counter hearing aids, the day they can be sold in stores, pharmacies and online after the FDA signed off on these less expensive options that don’t require professional input. Healthcare.
What could be simpler? Just pick up the hearing aid you need for your next Walmart ride.
Several devices are available now, but the party isn’t in full swing yet, it seems. A quick check Wednesday and Thursday at Best Buy, CVS, Walmart and Walgreens about 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles found no OTC audio devices on the shelves, as store staff suggested visiting their websites or to check out other, larger stores. Many of the prices listed online are higher than previous estimates of $300 to $500. Reading and understanding product information may require some education.
However, hearing loss professionals – and possibly countless spouses and friends – are tired of hearing the word “huh?” – I commend the move, noting that this affordable hearing aid is in great demand by many. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that about 37.5 million American adults have reported some hearing problems, but about a fifth of people who could benefit from a hearing aid use one. Expenses are a big reason, although the stigma of needing a hearing aid can also play a role. And device makers say that by the end of the month, there will be more models in stores.
Before you shop, here’s what to know and where to turn for help.
Hearing experts on board
Hearing experts, including audiologists and doctors who specialize in hearing (ear, nose, and throat specialists), prefer the option of over-the-counter devices, if people don’t misjudge their hearing loss.
“I think it’s great to have multiple paths [to treat hearing loss]Catherine Palmer, Ph.D., director of audiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and task force chair of the American Academy of Audiology. “That would be a positive thing for some.”
Who can help him?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are not intended for severe hearing loss and are not intended for children. They work best and are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
“We know that people are not accurate in judging their hearing loss,” Palmer says.
o Determine how severe your hearing loss is, experts say Mild to moderate hearing loss They have trouble understanding the conversation when they are in a group, in a place with background noise, or when they can’t see who is speaking. They may need to turn the volume of the TV or radio loud enough – at a volume high enough that others will notice that it is too loud. They may have difficulty talking on the phone, and may often ask others to repeat what they have said.
But you need an audiologist if you have trouble hearing in a quiet environment or can’t hear loud noises such as cars or electric tools.
Should You Try Online Hearing Tests First? (Google “online hearing tests” and get 241 million results.) Some experts say it can’t hurt, but others say it’s unreliable and they get a test from a professional.
Some other warning signs: If you have earache, pus, blood coming out of the ear, excess earwax, sudden hearing loss, or the loss of only one ear, see an audiologist.
“You have to make sure there is no medical cause for your hearing loss,” says Douglas Backus, MD, a neurologist at Puget Sound ENT Proliance Surgeons in Seattle and president-elect of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. .
OTC Hearing Aid Options
Some over-the-counter hearing aids are “self-fitting,” and require an app or accessory that develops software based on your responses to certain cues; Others have preset programs, a simpler option, and users can choose the best or switch between programs.
Models include behind the ear, in the ear, and in the canal, in order of preference. Experts say that those who wear glasses may not prefer the behind-the-ear model. Those who want it as inconspicuous as possible may prefer inside the channel.
Among the many OTC devices:
Over-the-counter devices are expected to cost about $200 to $1,000, compared to $5,000 and higher for prescription devices, according to the Consumer Health Care Products Association, of which device makers are among its members.
Palmer says that over-the-counter devices are unlikely to be covered by insurance, noting that the hearing industry is still struggling for more comprehensive coverage of prescription hearing aids.
More smart shopping:
Check the return policy for any device, says Anita Brickman, executive director of the Education Foundation of the Consumer Health Care Products Association, a nonprofit group. It should be listed on the label. She and others recommend a minimum of 30 days. Some device makers offer a longer lead time.
Getting used to the device may take time, and adjustments may be required.
Check to see if companies offer more support, says Brikman, such as online help or a toll-free number, and check the hours they can be reached.
Many organizations provide information online about over-the-counter hearing aids, including:
Buying online does not exclude the need for an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat doctor. If the OTC device is not working properly, experts suggest taking it to an audiologist and asking for an adjustment. “Before you give up, go get a formal evaluation,” Backus says.
And while it’s not required before getting an OTC device, “it’s still recommended that people get some sort of hearing test,” says Brickman. Insurance may cover the cost of the test.
Better hearing, better health
Hearing loss is associated with many adverse health effects, including less social contact because you miss conversations. Hearing loss can also increase your risk the fall.
But it has also been linked to an increased risk of infection mental illness. Recent research has found it to be one of the most important risk factors for dementia — and it can be changed.
What are not OTC hearing aids
A search for “over-the-counter hearing aids” brings up a variety of devices, including personal sound amplification products or PSAP devices. These are not intended for hearing loss, but to help enhance the ability to hear certain sounds in certain situations, such as while watching birds.
“These devices are regulated as consumer electronics, but not for hearing loss,” says Brickman.
Decoding FDA terms, device labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates OTC hearing aids as medical devices and requires OTC hearing aid makers to have maximum output or volume on the devices to prevent injuries from turning the sound too much. Hardware must also have limits to control distortion, limits to noise, and limits to how quickly it can process, amplify, and relay sound. There are requirements regarding frequency range and device input depth.
According to an FDA spokesperson, OTC hearing device makers must register their facilities with the FDA, list their devices with the FDA, and obtain authorization or approval, as appropriate for the device. Writes .
The new hearing aid category has been in the works since 2017, when the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 was passed as a contender for the Food and Drug Administration’s Reauthorization Act of 2017. In July, President Joe Biden issued an executive order calling for the FDA to take action. Steps to allow hearing aids to be sold without a prescription and to include a schedule for action. The rule creating OTC hearing aids became effective on October 17.