Hearing specialist weighs in as over-the-counter hearing aids hit store shelves

No medical exam, prescription required to buy OTC hearing aids

A new rule goes into effect today allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter. Consumer Reports says you'll likely see a lot of ads for hearing devices now that you won't need to go to a doctor to buy certain models. So, we found out from their experts what you need to know if you plan on buying a hearing aid on your own.

The FDA recently approved over-the-counter hearing aids, which are now available in stores.

About 80% of people with hearing loss haven’t yet tried to improve it and the introduction of these hearing aids aims to change that statistic.

“We have been anticipating the release of these regulations for probably six years, maybe a little bit longer,” said Dr. Sarah Sydlowski, audiologist for Cleveland Clinic and president of the American Academy for Audiology. “It’s something that came on to the radar of legislators and regulators quite a long time ago, and the focus has been on improving accessibility and affordability of hearing care.”

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She said the new over-the-counter hearing aids are designed for individuals 18 and older with perceived mild or moderate hearing issues.

Those interested will not be required to have a medical exam or prescription before buying them.

However, Sydlowski still recommends seeing an audiologist for a hearing test so you can learn more about what kind of hearing difficulties you may have, as well as the various treatment options available.

“I think over-the-counter devices are going to be a wonderful option for people who aren’t ready to take that big step to fully understand their hearing loss or to see an audiologist in order to have a prescription device programmed,” she said. “So, this will be a great way for people to maybe have an entry point and then when they’re having more difficulty or the device isn’t providing the benefit they need, they can come see an audiologist.”

Sydlowski notes that while this is an exciting development, she still thinks more needs to be done to raise awareness about hearing loss.

Although it’s one of the top three most common health conditions, a recent study showed only about 10% of older adults between the ages of 50 and 80 were able to properly identify what’s considered a “normal” range of hearing.

A related study also found many primary care providers don’t know that hearing loss can be both prevented and successfully improved.

Throughout the morning show, we've been talking about over the counter hearing aids because starting today, you can you can buy them in stores or online without a prescription. Prices vary from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars - depending on the make and model, but according the American Academy of Audiology, a person will be able to buy hearing aids without going to the doctor that cost about 300 to 600 dollars per ear. Stores like Walgreens now have them in stock in stores and online. We spoke with the manger of the Walgreens on Julington Plaza Drive in Saint Johns who says just because you don't need a doctor to purchase a hearing aid, that doesn't mean you're on your own once you buy it.