There has been a lot of buzz about over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids recently, as the FDA released a draft of guidance and regulations that would allow the consumer to purchase hearing aids directly, rather than through a hearing healthcare professional. As with many people, you’re probably wondering, “what do I need to know about over-the-counter hearing aids?”
First and foremost, an OTC hearing aid will not be the same product that you would get from a prescription hearing aid. Over-the-counter hearing aids will have a lot of similar features that a prescription hearing aid would have – volume control, manual programs, output limits, distortion control, etc; however, there are great benefits that come with the ongoing care from services rendered by hearing healthcare professionals.
The idea behind OTC hearing aids is to give more Americans with hearing loss access to hearing aids who may not be able to afford it. If you fall into this category, OTC hearing aids are definitely something to consider! Hearing aids can help to stabilize hearing loss by keeping your brain pathways stimulated. In this regard, an OTC hearing aid is better than no hearing aid at all.
While OTC hearing aids sound enticing, they are not recommended for all individuals with hearing loss. Over-the-counter hearing aids will only have the capability to be programmed for mild to moderate hearing losses. Individuals with a greater severity of hearing loss, or hearing loss that may be medically treatable, are not recommended to pursue OTC hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids are set to have clear and detailed labeling on all packaging disclosing this information to users. And of course, individuals with hearing loss who are under the age of 18 are restricted from using OTC hearing aids, as services from a licensed audiologist are much more important for their language development and academic success.
These are just some of the guidelines released by the FDA in regards to OTC hearing aids. More information will be released as the guidelines are refined following input from the public in the coming months. Until then, see a local hearing professional to get a proper exam. Most insurances, including Medicare, cover a hearing test.