Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids on the Way by Fall
Wednesday, August 24, 2022
A new class of hearing aids that do not require a hearing exam or prescription will be available over-the-counter by mid-October, due to a recent ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The devices are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing problems. The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults in America could potentially benefit from hearing aid use, but only about one-fifth of those individuals currently use them.
At Boys Town Audiology, we have more than 40 years of experience in translational hearing research. Our highly trained staff of licensed and certified audiologists are available to consult with patients about their hearing aid options and can determine the type of device that is best for them.
We asked Dr. Ryan McCreery, Ph.D., Vice President of Research at Boys Town National Research Hospital, where he is also the Director of the Audibility, Perception and Cognition Laboratory, and chairman of the American Academy of Audiology’s Research Committee, to share some important facts to know if you think you are a candidate for a hearing aid.
How can you determine if you need a prescription hearing aid or if an over-the-counter option would work for you?
Over-the-counter hearing aids were specifically developed for people who have mild to moderate hearing problems. Prescription hearing aids, however, are designed to assist patients with a wide range of hearing loss and are fully customized based on each individual's needs.
While an over-the-counter hearing aid does not require a hearing test, Boys Town recommends working with an audiologist to determine what kind of device will provide the best solution for you. A hearing test also can reveal if the hearing problems are resulting from other issues like wax in the ear or a medical problem.
Why is getting a device that works for your specific needs so important?
There is no “one size fits all" in hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids were developed to help people with a limited range of hearing problems, just as over-the-counter reading glasses help those with minor vision issues. Many people, however, have too much hearing loss to benefit from these devices or simply need more features and customization than an over-the-counter device can provide. Individuals currently using prescription hearing aids will continue to prefer the customization that is available by working with a professional who can adjust the device to their specific needs.
How do you know if a hearing aid is covered by insurance?
Many insurance companies have benefits for prescription hearing aids. Over-the-counter hearing aids are not currently covered by insurance.
Can hearing aids be returned or repaired?
When purchasing a hearing aid, it is important to investigate if the device offers a return policy and if any warranty coverage is included. Over-the-counter devices may not have a usable life and may have limitations on whether they can be returned or repaired. Prescription hearing aids, however, can be returned and repaired. At Boys Town, we offer a minimum of a 50-day return policy and a 4-year warranty on our prescription hearing aids and most have a usable life up to 5 years. In addition, they can be refitted if hearing changes.
At Boys Town, we welcome the arrival of over-the-counter hearing aids. While not a replacement for customized, prescription hearing aids, these new devices will benefit the millions of Americans with hearing loss, who currently do not use hearing aids.