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Over the Counter Hearing Aids are Here!

4 minute read

By Christopher Brown

Key Takeaways

  • One in eight Americans suffer from a hearing impairment in both ears.
  • The hearing impaired no longer need a prescription for a hearing device.
  • Buy a brand new hearing aid for just $200

Big news for the hearing impaired. The red tape has been officially cut, paving the way for a medical industry overhaul the likes of which haven’t been seen in decades. Until now, hearing aids have been treated like a luxury that’s only available to those that could afford the substantial price tag.

But hearing aids aren’t a luxury. They’re essential for physical and mental health. Still, millions of hearing impaired Americans were priced out of the market. Not anymore. With the stroke of a pen, the hearing aid industry has been overhauled, prices have been cut, and availability of these life-altering devices has increased tenfold.

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What Changed?

Until recently, the obstacles separating hearing impaired Americans from the hearing aids that they need were gigantic. To start, the industry was dominated by just six companies, which led to zero competition and unreasonably inflated prices.1 What’s more, getting one required a prescription, and months of appointments and follow ups.

But that’s all changed. Thanks to a recent rule change made by the Food and Drug Administration, devices can now be sold in retail stores without the need for a doctor’s visit. The change is designed to spur competition, increase availability, and drive down prices.

The Importance of Hearing Aids

It’s estimated that one in eight people in the United States has hearing loss in both ears, with around two-percent of adults aged 45 to 54 suffering from disabling hearing loss.2 What’s worse, as of this writing only around 16% of the hearing impaired use a hearing aid. That’s not good for a number of reasons.

Untreated hearing loss can have severe effects on a person’s quality of life. It’s been linked to increased stress levels, depression, dementia, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Hearing aids go a long way to promoting a person’s independence, enhancing their social life, and improving their quality of life.3 It really is impossible to overstate the importance of hearing aids.

Does Medicare Cover Hearing Aids?

In short, no. Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids or exams for fitting hearing aids.4 They never have either. Previously, those that needed a hearing aid were required to come up with the money themselves. A cost that could easily exceed $6000.

Medicaid may cover some or all of the cost of a hearing aid depending on the state. All told, twenty-three states include hearing aid coverage in their Medicaid policies. States that provide full coverage of the devices include California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.5

Buyer Beware

Over the counter hearing aids shouldn’t be an impulse purchase. Buyers are encouraged to take the time to research all of the devices available to them to ensure that they invest in a quality product that meets their needs. Experts are forecasting a lot of competition, and a lot of options to choose from. All the more reason to prioritize an informed decision.

Those on the hunt for a new hearing aid should keep a few key things in mind. Be sure to make note of the device’s return policy, as it can take up to four-weeks to fully adjust to a new device. It’s also important to know if the device uses a rechargeable battery, or uses one that will need to be replaced in time.

Finally, over the counter hearing aids are not designed to be used by children or those who suffer from severe hearing impairment. Only a prescription device should be used in both those cases.6

Where to Buy and Over the Counter Hearing Aid

Now that the Federal Drug Administration’s rule change has come into effect, hearing impaired Americans can save big on a brand new herding device! There’s no need to secure a prescription either. A little online research and a visit to a local retailer is all that’s needed.

Now, you’ll be able to purchase a hearing aid at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy, and Hy-Vee! As with all technology, prices can vary substantially. Still, it’s predicted that the cost of an over the counter hearing aid will start at around $200.7

Conclusion

Just because you can purchase an over the counter hearing device doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right option for you. Buying a hearing aid without doing the proper research, or without guidance from a medical professional, could mean you end up with an ill-fitting device or one that won’t quite meet your needs.

To be clear, this news is unquestionably good. Cheaper, more accessible hearing aids are what’s been needed for a long time, and America is healthier that it was before the FDA rule change. Still, it’s always important to do as much research as possible before settling on a new over-the-counter hearing aid.