Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are coming, and they’re coming fast! The FDA recently released a draft of guidelines for public comment for OTC hearing aids, and manufacturers are working to refine their products for the market. While OTC hearing aids will be a cost-effective option for people who may not be able to afford hearing aids otherwise, they are not going to be recommended for all individuals with hearing loss.
The ideal candidates for OTC hearing aids are individuals with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. Most often, people with mild to moderate hearing loss are likely to keep the volume on the TV loud, ask for repetition often, struggle in noisier environments – like restaurants, and may have difficulty understanding clarity with speech.
Certain types of hearing loss, like ones that have a sudden onset or are considered more severe than “mild to moderate” are not recommended to be treated with OTC hearing aids. Those with a severe degree of hearing loss are going to need a more powerful hearing aid for effective benefit. For those who experience a sudden hearing loss, it is best to seek medical evaluation and intervention as soon as possible; not all sudden hearing losses are permanent, and a hearing aid may not be warranted after treatment.
Lastly, OTC hearing aids are designed for adults ages 18 and older. Children with hearing loss must see a licensed audiologist for hearing aids, as untreated hearing loss at such a young age can have effects on academic performance, as well as speech and language development.
Over the next few months, the FDA will be taking comments and recommendations from the public on their OTC hearing aid guidelines. As guidelines are refined, more information and details regarding OTC hearing aids will become available.