Did You Hear? OTC Hearing Aids Available Soon

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss will soon be able to purchase hearing aids, over the counter (OTC), directly from a retailer or manufacturer without a prescription.

This development is significant since it enables you to obtain a hearing aid without a prescription and the testing typically involved in being fitted for a device. But while you can save money buying OTC, is it always the best and wisest course of action when you experience hearing loss?

Premier Health Now had the opportunity to speak with otolaryngologist Laura J. Tully, MD, to learn the pros and cons of making an OTC hearing aid purchase.

As the door opens for direct purchases by consumers, the market will very likely draw fresh interest from many who have simply delayed seeking a solution to their problem.

“I think, in general, it's going to be a really great thing for a lot of patients,” says Dr. Tully. “Previously, many with mild hearing loss have understandably opted to keep an eye on their symptoms until they get progressively worse, because they don’t like the idea of spending $3,000 to $5,000 on hearing aids.”

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders says that many people who need a hearing aid don’t have one. Of those who could benefit, fewer than 30 percent of adults aged 70 and older and 16 percent of adults 20 to 69 use one, the agency reports.

Though OTC availability of hearing aids appears to be a positive development, Dr. Tully cautions that self-diagnosing your level of hearing loss can be difficult. For example, some may believe their hearing loss is mild. But their friends and relatives, who have difficulty communicating with them, may disagree.

She advises checking with your insurance provider before seeking a hearing test since coverage can vary depending upon where you get the testing.

“Most likely a hearing test will be covered when you are seeing an ear nose and throat doctor for an exam,” Dr. Tully says. “I think it's very reasonable to get a hearing test that's done with a comprehensive exam, so you aren't left guessing.”

Dr. Tully also advises testing if your ears feel clogged, or if things sound like you’re underwater or you’re listening in a barrel. You should also seek medical care if your hearing loss is accompanied by drainage, pain, itching, inflammation, or if hearing in one ear is worse than the other.

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