Hearing aids: Americans can now buy them without a prescription


Pete Couste said it was his wife who first noticed that he was turning up the volume on the television more than he liked.

“I couldn’t hear the words in the movies as much anymore,” admitted Couste, who lives outside Washington, DC.

Watching television is not Couste’s only problem. In his church choir, he can’t always hear his part and get the pitch right. He also affected his work at the Fire Safety Research Institute, a non-profit organization that generates security investigations. The 61-year-old said he feels less effective in judging audio quality when his team makes life-saving videos for firefighters.

“It’s affecting every part of my life,” he said.

She saw an audiologist who said she needed hearing aids, but they would have cost more than $6,000. “I thought, ‘Maybe this can wait,’” Couste said.

That was seven years ago.

The wait may be over for Couste and millions of other Americans. On Monday, for the first time, adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in the US will be able to buy hearing aids over the counter. Those who are under the age of 18 or who have severe hearing loss will still need a prescription.

The United States Food and Drug Administration announced the long awaited rule change in August, giving way to options that should be cheaper and possibly even better.

Now, instead of getting a prescription and having a custom fit from a hearing healthcare professional, adults can purchase hearing aids directly from a store or online. Some doctors estimate that 90% of the population with hearing loss could benefit from these over-the-counter devices.

Experts say the move is a “game changer”.

“We’ve been working toward affordable and accessible hearing health care for years,” said Barbara Kelley, executive director of the American Hearing Loss Association. “We are really looking forward to Monday.”

Certainly, Couste isn’t the only one giving up hearing aids because they’re too expensive, Kelley said. just about 16% of the tens of millions of people with hearing loss use a headsetaccording to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

The number of people with hearing loss is considerable. About 1 in 8 people in the US over the age of 12 have hearing loss in both ears, and the rate increases significantly with age. About a quarter of people ages 65 to 74 have hearing loss, and that increases to 50% around age 75.

On average, people spend at least $4,000 out of pocket on devices for both ears, according to a 2020 study published in the medical journal JAMA. The prices may vary: Large retailers can offer a pair for around $1,400, but some can cost as much as $6,000 per eardepending on the technology.

The FDA rule allowing over-the-counter hearing aids did not change how the devices are covered. While private insurers pay for treatment after limb loss or even cover the cost of Viagra, most don’t cover hearing aids. Most Medicare plans won’t pay for them either. Only about half of state Medicaid programs do.

So far, five companies have controlled 90% of the global hearing aid market. That kind of consolidation meant there was little price competition.

With the change, many more companies are expected to enter the market. The experts say that existing manufacturers will also develop lower-cost over-the-counter devices in addition to their current offerings.

On Monday, some well-known companies in the audio world will be selling headphones.

Sony has a couple of models that are paired with an app that allows users to customize settings and find additional support. The CRE-C10 retails for $999.99 and has a battery life of up to 70 hours of continuous use. The CRE-E10 has a more earphone-like design and a rechargeable battery; It supports Bluetooth to stream music or audio. It will be available for $1,299.99 on Sony’s website and at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers.

Bose also partnered with Lexie Hearing to offer the B1 model for $899 a pair. The B2, for $999, add a rechargeable battery that works up to 18 hours. Both models are Bluetooth enabled, the user can tune and pair them with a mobile app for assistance. They will be sold online, in drugstores and in stores like Best Buy.

Best Buy it says nearly 300 of its stores will offer a “hearing experience,” which will include about 10 over-the-counter hearing aids and PSAPs, or personal sound amplification products. These improve sound but do not need to meet FDA standards, unlike hearing aids, which must meet the FDA’s high standards for labeling, manufacturing, and safety, just like other medical devices.

Best Buy encourages customers to take a hearing evaluation on its website before entering the store to work with trained associates to select a new device.

Hearing aids aren’t just nice to have; They are essential for physical and mental health.

People with hearing loss who do not have hearing aids are more likely to report poor health in general, and are less likely to leave the house or exercise, studies have found.

there is a link between hearing loss and overall frailty and an increase risk of fallsThey are the second leading cause of unintentional deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Association.

Several studies have also found a relationship between hearing loss and worse mental health and psychosocial health.

Hearing loss can lead to depressionloneliness and isolation – even dementia.

With hearing aids becoming more affordable, “I have a big smile on my face right now,” said Dr. Frank Lin, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health. He has been consulting with the government on this issue for eight years.

Lin said there has been little innovation in this space due to the way the market has been regulated.

“In 1977, due to the technology of the time, the only way for hearing aids to be safe and effective was if they were professionally programmed, fitted, and adjusted by a licensed provider,” he said. “But the market and that technology has changed dramatically.

“This will allow companies like Samsung, Apple, Google – companies that are already making innovative headphones – to now be able to enter the market. They really couldn’t before.”

Kelley said if you plan to buy a hearing aid over-the-counter, be sure to read the return policy. The FDA did not require companies to offer one, as Kelley’s group pushed, but any return policy must be included in the package.

Check how long you have before you can return them too. Hearing aids are different from glasses; It can take up to four weeks for your brain to adjust to hearing in a new way.

Try them out under different circumstances for a few weeks to see if they are right for you. Do they help in a crowded room or are they better at work? It is not one size fits all.

Couste said he will check with his insurance company to see if they will cover the cost of an OTC device. But finally, after all these years, he believes that he will soon be able to hear better.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Couste said. “I really am.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *