Over-the-counter hearing aids are available as low as $199, without a prescription, as of 2017

From Monday, consumers will be able to purchase Hearing aids straight from store shelves And at dramatically lower prices with the 2017 federal law coming into effect.

Where for decades it cost us thousands of dollars to get a device that can only be bought with a prescription from an audiologist or other audiologist, a new class of over-the-counter aids is now selling for hundreds of dollars. Walmart says it will sell an earbud for under $199.

The Over-the-counter aid Intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss – a market of tens of millions of people, many of whom have so far avoided getting help because the devices were too expensive.

“From a conceptual point of view, it’s huge that this eventually happened,” he said. Dr. Frank Lane, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He predicts that it may take two years for the new market to explode as manufacturers and retailers get used to selling aid and consumers become aware of the options.

Hearing care experts say they are happy to see the prices come down. Lin said he believes prices will fall further as more competitors enter the market in the next two years.

Prices and features for new over-the-counter hearing aids will vary – just as they do for prescription aids. A pair of prescription devices usually sell for $2,000 to $8,000. Some of the techniques found in more expensive prescriptions will be available in cheaper over-the-counter methods.

OTC aids cost less in part because they do not combine the services of an audiologist to assess hearing and fitting and adjusting the device. Instead, the new devices are meant to prepare consumers themselves, although manufacturers will provide technical assistance through apps and over the phone.

Some new companies entered the market, Including Sony. The cheapest, self-contained OTC hearing aid will sell for $999 at Best Buy and other retailers.

Sony hearing aids
Sony entered the over-the-counter hearing aid market with two new products. One is the CRE-C10, a pair of self-attaching hearing aids that will be available at major retailers.

Sony Electronics


Walmart said it will offer a variety of over-the-counter hearing aids, including some priced at $199 to $299 per pair from South Africa-based hearX, which also makes Lexie devices. Initially, the devices will be available at Walmart stores in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. But the company expects to make it available nationwide soon.

Walgreens will introduce the Lexie Lumen OTC Hearing Aid for $799 a pair. Deals at Walgreens, CVS, Best Buy, and Walmart will also include a Lexie hearing aid developed in Partnership with Bose.

Costco, one of the largest sellers of dispensable hearing aids, hasn’t revealed whether it would offer any over-the-counter.

De Wet Swanepoel, co-founder of HearX, said the Lexie Lumen OTC hearing aid will allow consumers to program it according to their needs. Other OTC devices will provide pre-programmed settings.

“There are a lot of products on the market and a lot of consumer education is going to be needed about the difference between the devices,” he said.

Lin said some consumers may want to see an audiologist either in person or online to have their hearing tested before purchasing an OTC instrument. The audiologist can also recommend the best hearing aids for their type of hearing loss. For a fee, traditional Medicare and most health insurance companies cover routine hearing tests. But Medicare and most private insurance companies do not cover the cost of hearing aids, even though many private Medicare Advantage plans do.

Lin said consumers can also take hearing tests online or through an app on their phone or computer.

Another factor that could drive the demand for new devices is that the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids is diminishing as people use earbuds to listen to music.

more than 37 million American adults They have a hearing problem, and just 1 in 4 adults Who could benefit from a hearing aid has used one, federal health officials estimate.

The hearing aid industry has remained largely isolated from price competition due to standardization among manufacturers, widespread government licensing laws mandating sales through audiologists or other hearing professionals, and device makers acquiring the practices of hearing professionals.

After decades of complaints about the high cost of hearing aids, Congress in 2017 ordered the Food and Drug Administration to establish rules that would enable over-the-counter selling, hoping to boost competition and lower prices. But the Covid pandemic has slowed the FDA’s efforts, and last year President Joe Biden ordered the FDA to issue those rules. Final regulations It was announced 2 months ago. Under federal rules, the new class of hearing aids bypasses state exchange laws.

Audiologists, who could lose their business, warn that the new category will not help people with severe hearing loss. He said excessive sound amplification can damage hearing Sarah Sidlovskyformer president of the American Academy of Audiology.

but, Nicholas ReedThe devices are likely to be less dangerous than listening to music with earphones too loud, said the audiologist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Regulations require that new aids have maximum safe sound levels to help protect consumers’ hearing.

Tom PowersThe new devices will be clearly marked as FDA approved and consumers should monitor this, said the New Jersey hearing aid industry consultant. These are different from cheap personal devices that amplify sound but do not address the other components of hearing loss, such as distortion.

Reed recommends looking for over-the-counter hearing aids with generous return policies that exceed a month. Consumers may want to try one of the devices for a few weeks to see how it works. If one brand doesn’t work, they should try another.

A switch may be necessary, because it is unclear whether consumers will have in-store help choosing an aid without an audiologist. Some stores plan to help. Walmart said it will include information on its website to help people find the right devices for them.

Reed also said consumers should look for devices labeled “self-fitting” because it shows companies have proven to the Food and Drug Administration that people can set up these devices themselves as well as if they have professional help.

“If you’re a tech expert, I say go straight,” Reed said, noting that “there’s nothing wrong with talking to a trained audiologist.”

Nancy Williams, president of Auditory Insight, a hearing healthcare management consulting firm, said she reviewed eight major over-the-counter hearing aid products, from $499 to $1,299. Some look like earbuds or are almost invisible, while others look like traditional wrap-around headphones. The OTC aids I’ve reviewed largely have limited or no Bluetooth connectivity, a feature that allows users to customize devices, and only about half of them have rechargeable batteries. But all eight allow the user to customize the devices based on the results of the hearing test.

She recommends that people try at least three over-the-counter aids to see what works best for them.

The American Academy of Audiology, a professional organization for audiologists, has published Online information for consumers About OTC hearing aids, the American Hearing Loss Association, a consumer advocacy group, also has Online advice.

Barbara Kelly, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, said consumers should take their time to research new options. “It’s all going to be a little confusing,” she said. But, she added, the new options will lead to more people getting help with their hearing. “The benefits outweigh the risks,” she said.


KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and survey, KHN is one of the three major drivers in KFF (Caesar Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.

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