Over-the-counter Hearing Devices

It is well known that only a small amount of the population with hearing loss that could benefit from hearing aids use them. Some of the reasons behind this include satisfaction, access, stigma, and of course, cost! Hearing aids can be notoriously expensive as many insurance companies do not provide benefits for hearing aids or cover the services of the provider (although this is slowly changing). Last year, the Over-the-counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act was passed to attempt to alleviate some of these barriers, mainly cost and having to visit a professional to obtain help. So what can we expect from OTC devices, where can you get them, and when will they be available?

OTC hearing devices are being developed to assist patients with mild to moderate hearing loss. Similar to reading glasses, they are meant to assist with more minor problems in select listening environments. For patients with more severe, complicated, or medical related hearing loss, OTC devices will likely not be a good option. OTC hearing devices will presumably be available online and electronic stores, and potentially also be distributed by hearing healthcare providers.

Many consumers are under the impression that OTC hearing devices are available now due to misleading advertising. OTC hearing devices will not be available until at least 2020. The FDA has until 2020 to propose potential regulations, and it may be after that until devices are approved for release. Current devices available are simply PSAPs (personal sound amplifiers). These devices pick up sounds and make them louder. They are not set for an individual’s hearing loss, they do not help filter out background noise, and some contain potentially dangerous volume levels that could even damage your hearing.

We know that hearing aids are a frustrating process. Many companies are only interested in ‘making a sale’ and it is easy to be taken advantage of. The most important part of the process is having a thorough evaluation and trusting your provider. Sometimes the best ‘deal’ isn’t always your best option.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Doctors of Audiology, contact Gardner Audiology at 800-277-1182 or info@gardneraudiology.com

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