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Over-the-counter hearing aids available without prescription: Here's what you need to know

Posted October 3, 2022 6:55 p.m. EDT
Updated October 3, 2022 7:12 p.m. EDT

Get ready to see more ads for hearing aids – a recent change should make them more easily accessible, allowing some models to be sold over the counter.

To give people better access to affordable hearing aids, Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which finally goes into effect in October. This is the first time you can buy a real hearing aid without a prescription. They’re different from the personal sound amplification products sold right now. These devices will have to meet FDA standards that the other ones don’t and be about the size of wireless earbud.

"For those with perceived mild to moderate loss adults over 18, this gives them a new option," explained Dr. Patricia Johnson.

The doctor of audiology and an assistant clinical professor in the school of medicine at UNC tells WRAL Five On Your Side that millions of Americans suffer from untreated hearing loss.

Yet, Dr. Johnson doesn’t believe over the counter hearing aids will provide the care a prescribed one, which is specifically tuned and shaped for the patient does.

"There’s going to be a lot of folks who are under-treated because they didn’t get the right level of care," Johnson said.

When you’re shopping for hearing aids, there are some important questions you should ask, like “What’s the return policy?” Because it can take time to adjust to a new pair, Consumer Reports says to make sure you can try them out for a few weeks.

Also, check out their features. Do they have replaceable or rechargeable batteries? Are they sweat- or water-resistant? And will they pair to your smartphone via Bluetooth? Do they have a telecoil, which lets you tap directly into assistive listening systems at large events? The Food and Drug Administration rules also standardizes features for hearing aids. For example, all OTC hearing aids must allow users to adjust the volume. You may think that’s an obvious feature, but you’d be surprised by what’s available.

CR says not all hearing aids will be available over the counter under these new rules. People with severe hearing loss and those under 18 will still need to see a medical professional for a prescription to get hearing aids.

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