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Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Not Approved for Children

​​​​The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids for adults (older than the age of 18) who perceive that they have mild to moderate hearing loss. The FDA did not, however, approve OTC hearing aids for use in children younger than age 18, citing the need for more comprehensive audiology care.

We asked Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., the Vice President of Research at Boys Town National Research Hospital, where he is also the Director of the Audibility, Perception and Cognition Laboratory, to answer some important questions about the use of OTC hearing aids in children.

Why aren't OTC hearing aids advised to treat pediatric hearing loss?

The FDA did not approve OTC hearing aids for children because the devices are designed to be fitted to adults who perceive that they are having hearing problems.  OTC devices cannot be easily customized to provide a child with access to their environment like prescription hearing aids can.  OTC devices also lack safety features that are important for children and do not have customized fitting that can be adapted as the child's ear grows.

Why is it so important that your child gets the right hearing device for their specific needs?

When a child has hearing loss, we provide a hearing aid to restore access to spoken language. The amount of amplification that is needed depends on the amount of hearing loss a child has and the size of the ear canal. Pediatric audiologists can adjust prescription hearing aids to fit a child's exact hearing needs, whereas an OTC device cannot be precisely ad​justed in the same way. 

Since OTC hearing aids are not appropriate for use in children, are there any funding options available to cover the cost of prescription hearing aids?

Yes. There are often funding sources that are available to support the cost of hearing aids for children. Boys Town Audiologists can help families to determine which funding sources may be available.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child has a Hearing Loss​

At Boys Town, we know that OTC hearing aids are not approved for children as they lack important safety features and cannot be customized to a child's specific hearing loss. This could contribute to delays in language learning, school readiness and social emotional learning," said Dr. McCreery “If you suspect your child suffers from a loss in hearing, we highly recommend seeking care from one of our experienced pediatric audiologists, who can help you and your child to navigate the hearing loss journey.​

At Boys Town Audiology, we have more than 40 years of experience in translational hearing research. Much of our work involves helping children with hearing loss. We know that the skills and training of an experienced pediatric audiologist are critical to ensuring that the unique needs of children with hearing loss are met. OTC hearing aids cannot provide the specialized amplification that children with hearing loss require.

If you have concerns regarding your child's hearing, making an appointment with Boys Town Audiology​ is the place to start. Our experienced pediatric audiologists can conduct a comprehensive diagnostic hearing test to evaluate your child's hearing and identify the degree and type of hearing loss that may be present. If a hearing loss is diagnosed, our trained staff can recommend the appropriate hearing aid technology, based on your child's unique hearing levels, age and stage of development.

Cochlear Implants;Childhood Deafness Childhood Deafness;Hearing and Balance;Ear, Nose and Throat