One major barrier cited as a reason for not getting hearing aids is the cost. Entry-level hearing aids at a professional audiology practice, such as Associated Audiologists, range from $675 to $3,200 per ear. Hearing aids in this price range are custom-fit by a doctoral-level audiologist.
FDA to Create & Regulate OTC Hearing Aids
However, to address the issue of affordability and accessibility, new legislation signed and passed in August 2017 will require the FDA to create and regulate a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. These over-the-counter devices are not available for purchase yet. The FDA has three years to complete this task, which will prove challenging to promote access but ensure safety.
Hearing Loss Due to Medical Problems Requires a Hearing Evaluation
Please keep in mind that if your hearing loss is due to a medical problem, such as impacted earwax or a perforated eardrum, a hearing aid, whether prescription or OTC, isn’t the right treatment. A comprehensive hearing evaluation is necessary to determine this.
Pros and Cons of OTC Hearing Aids
Pro - More Affordable
When OTC hearing aids do become available, they will likely cost in the $150-$500 per ear range. OTC options will be self-prescribed, self-fit, and self-adjusted.
Some professional organizations agree the new law will help consumers who otherwise would not have sought help for hearing problems because of the high cost of hearing aids, or the stigma attached to them.
Con - May Not Help with Hearing
Other professional organizations are concerned this may prove challenging for many users, especially the elderly, and if these devices don’t help the patient, these also could end up being a waste of money that sits in the nightstand drawer.
Pro - Good for Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss
So who may get the most out of this new category of hearing aids? If you have mild to moderate hearing loss - difficulty hearing soft speech or hearing the television, for example - OTC hearing aids may be a good entry-level solution.
Con - Won’t Benefit Those with Severe Hearing Loss
Those with more severe loss likely won’t benefit, in part because they may need more customization and amplification in specific ranges than an over-the-counter hearing aid may be able to offer.
Con - Wasted Money
You also may not be able to return an over-the-counter hearing aid if you don’t like it - as you usually can with prescription aids.
Comprehensive Hearing Evaluations Are Critical
Ultimately, your hearing loss is as unique and individual as you are. To help you function better with your hearing loss, especially in difficult listening environments, you need a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Based on those results, an audiologist can make recommendations consistent with your hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget. This process can require multiple adjustments to the hearing aids and complex rehabilitation, especially if you are a new hearing aid wearer.
Consumer Reports recommends a professional hearing test before a patient buys a personal sound amplification device. These devices are not hearing aids, but simply amplify sounds. When OTC hearing aids do become available, this will likely also be the recommendation. An audiologist also can provide guidance in determining the best device for your hearing loss. This practice is also in line with recommendations from professional organizations.
Professional Testing by Audiologists Will Yield the Best Results
At Associated Audiologists, we take the time to meet with our patients and their families, providing state-of-the-art professional testing before fitting a hearing aid, personalized recommendations, and outstanding and convenient service. We have many budget-sensitive options available that are fit and followed by one of our doctoral-level audiologists. Associated Audiologists is proud that 98 percent of our patients would refer a friend or family member to us.
To learn more, download our free e-book, How Today’s Hearing Aids Can Help You Hear Better.