OTC hearing aids now available in stores and online

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 5:28 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - As of Monday, October 17, hearing aids are available over the counter at places like Walmart and CVS.

Without a prescription, people with hearing loss can purchase hearing aids on their own. That makes it easier to get hearing aids, and makes it less expensive.

Before OTC, hearing aids were an option, Healthy Hearing said a hearing aid costs on average $2,000-$3,000. The process to get a prescription can also take months.

“Until now, you had to get a medical clearance and then go to an audiologist and get hearing aids. Those barriers are removed,” said Dr. Ayasakanta Rout, professor of audiology and hearing sciences at James Madison University.

The cost of hearing aids has already seen a drop. Walmart officials said their hearing aids will run anywhere between $199-$999.

Rout said OTC hearing aids change the outlook for people with hearing loss.

“Over-the-counter hearing aids will go quite a distance in terms of making hearing health care affordable and accessible,” Rout said.

Rout cited research from the University of South Carolina that said, on average, it takes a person almost nine years from the time they notice hearing loss to get hearing aids.

“The hope is that the time from noticing they have hearing loss to doing something will significantly reduce,” he said.

However, even with the benefits, Rout said there are many downfalls of over-the-counter hearing aids.

“We are asking a lot from the patients themselves to go, pick up a pair of hearing aids and program it for themselves, wear it, know when to change the battery,” Rout said.

Education is a big part of this endeavor, Rout said.

“Not only educating the public, but also the pharmacists who work at big box stores that are dispensing hearing aids but they don’t have formal training. We need to educate them,” he said.

Without the proper education, hearing loss may still be a reality for too many.

“Without some handholding, we are asking for disappointment from the patient’s point of view,” he said.

While you can go pick up hearing aids and put them to use without a doctor’s guidance, there is still help out there.

“The good news here is that the audiologists are available to support the patients who buy OTC hearing aids.”

Rout said the process to get OTC hearing aids cleared by the Food and Drug Administration started in 2017.