Over-the-counter hearing aids have arrived: What you need to know

It's been years in the making, but over-the-counter hearing aids are finally available. The FDA's decision to allow hearing aids to be sold without a prescription takes effect today and the devices are expected to be on store shelves shortly thereafter, if they aren't there yet.

Because of a recent rule change from the FDA, some hearing aid models will now be sold over the counter.

Consumer Reports explains everything you need to know about the new ways of shopping for a hearing aid.

To give people better access to affordable hearing aids, Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which finally went into effect in October. Consumers will be able to buy hearing aids from stores and online without needing the intervention of an audiologist or a doctor. And that could save people hundreds—even thousands—of dollars.

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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, CR 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.

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.