Cheaper hearing aids hit stores today, available over the counter for first time

Enlarge / In this photo illustration, a Lexie Lumen hearing aid rests on a drugstore counter at a Walgreens store October 17 in Los Angeles. Walgreens is making over-the-counter Lexie Lumen hearing aids available for adults starting today following an FDA ruling allowing over-the-counter sales of hearing aids.

Today, Americans can buy less expensive hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss without a prescription from an array of mainstream retailers, including Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart, finally making essential health devices more affordable and affordable. accessible to some 28.8 million adults. who could benefit from it.

The US Food and Drug Administration estimates the change could cut the average cost of getting a hearing aid by up to $3,000. To date, Walgreens sells an over-the-counter model similar to hearing aids ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 a pair at specialty retailers for just $799 a pair on its shelves, the White House announced Monday. Similarly, Walmart said that to date it sells over-the-counter hearing aids ranging from $199 to $999 a pair, which are comparable to prescription hearing aids priced at $4,400 to $5,500 a pair. .

The move has been going on for years. In 2017, Congress passed a bipartisan proposal directing the FDA to establish rules for the sale of over-the-counter devices. But the rules were slow to come. In July 2021, President Biden signed an executive order prompting the FDA to produce the rules, which the agency finalized in August of this year.

“Hearing loss is a critical public health issue that affects the ability of millions of Americans to communicate effectively in their daily social interactions,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said in August. “Establishing this new regulatory category will allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to have convenient access to a range of safe, effective and affordable hearing aids at their neighborhood store or online.”

In the past, barriers to hearing aids were high for many Americans. They required a medical examination and that patients obtain a prescription or be fitted by an audiologist.

The Hearing Industries Association, a trade group that represents manufacturers of hearing aids, worked to undermine the effectiveness of new over-the-counter devices, according to a congressional investigation. Although HIA now says it supports the rule, it still urges people to seek specialist care to diagnose hearing impairments and fit and use devices.

“Hearing loss is unique to each person, and most don’t know if their condition is mild, moderate or more severe, caused by another medical condition or something as simple as earwax,” said the president of the HIA, Kate Carr, in a statement from august. “HIA supports the final rule and recommends that the best treatment for hearing loss is to see a hearing care professional.”

Although independent experts have noted that there is nothing wrong with consulting an expert for those who can, they have also said that consumers can handle the situation on their own. There are also online resources to help people through the process. For example, the Hearing Loss Association of America, a consumer advocacy group, suggests a tip sheet on who might consider an over-the-counter hearing aid and what features to look for when buying one. Tips for the latter include looking for generous return policies, convenient connectivity, adjustable amplification, water/sweat resistance, and a long-lasting or rechargeable battery.

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