On July 9, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) that included rules on how to classify over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. The US Department of Health and Human Services has until November 6 to issue its proposed rules about selling them over the counter.

The feeling behind this order is that the 86% of Americans with an untreated hearing loss would be more inclined to buy a pair of hearing aids if they were cheaper. And they might!

How does this relate to people with a hearing loss here in East Tennessee?

What Are OTC Hearing Aids?

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are FDA-regulated hearing aids that will be available in stores like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.

People will be able to buy them without having to get a hearing test or prescription from an audiologist, so in effect, they will be self-treating their hearing loss. It’s similar to people buying generic reading glasses at the same type of stores.

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An Audiologist’s Thoughts About OTC Devices

We’re glad you’re asking for our thoughts on this order.

On the one hand, we’re happy that hearing aids can be more affordable. If people start talking about it, it will create more awareness of the need for early detection and treatment. It might also make today’s hearing aids more accessible.

On the other hand, we have several concerns about how this will play out, which we will outline below:

  1. OTC hearing aids will only work for people with a mild to moderate hearing loss. Someone with a moderate to profound hearing loss will not receive the adequate care they need from an OTC device.
  2. People with a hearing loss often don’t recognize the severity of their loss when asked. This then means they will buy the wrong type of hearing aid for their degree of hearing loss and may as well pour that money down the drain.
  3. The only way to treat your hearing loss effectively is to have your hearing tested by an expert. There’s no possibility of treating your exact hearing needs any other way.
  4. Most OTC hearing aids will only have basic features that don’t address background noise in different environments.
  5. Hearing aids won’t be fitted by a professional, so they might fall off or out frequently or be very uncomfortable.
  6. Without professional testing by an audiologist, the cause of a hearing loss will not be diagnosed, possibly missing out on a medical diagnosis that could save a life if the hearing loss is secondary to a serious medical condition.
  7. The marketing for OTC devices implies that someone is paying thousands less for the hearing aids alone. This is simply a lie to manipulate consumers into buying their product.

An audiologist’s prices seem higher because the investment usually includes a complete hearing package (we offer four) that covers years of hearing care – the initial fitting, follow-up appointments, adjusting, cleaning, and repairs, as well as batteries and supplies (i.e., filters, domes, and receivers).

But an audiologist’s prices are similar or not much higher – hearing aids alone can be as little as $1,880 if you strip away all the ongoing care you’ll have to pay for, no matter where you get your hearing aids from.

  1. Wearing a hearing aid at the wrong settings for volume, pitch, tone, and background noise could actually damage hearing further.

Get Your Hearing Checked Professionally

Simply put, there’s no way to treat your hearing correctly, no matter where you get your hearing aids, without first getting a professional hearing test by an audiologist.

Our PHC Tennessee audiologists have the expertise to test and find the cause of a hearing loss, making sure every aspect of your hearing health is checked and treated professionally, whereas putting an OTC hearing aid on your ear is more of a band-aid approach.

Book a hearing assessment today at PHC Tennessee to ensure you get the best hearing check and treatment possible. It’s quick and non-invasive, with results provided immediately.

Or call us with any questions at all about hearing aids.

Whether you are researching hearing aids for the first time or upgrading your current aids, we promise to always put you first when it comes to providing world-class hearing care. We look forward to seeing you.

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Dr. Kalyn Bradford Au.D.

Dr. Kalyn Bradford is the director of hearing aid services here at Physician's Hearing Care. She completed her externship with Physician's Hearing Care in 2013 and subsequently joined the practice in 2014 after graduating with her doctoral degree in audiology from Louisiana Tech University. She joined PHC as a clinical audiologist, where she performed comprehensive audiological exams and specialized in helping patients to hear better using the latest hearing aid technology available. She has carried that experience into her current role as director of hearing aid services, where she does an excellent job managing the audiologists to ensure that all patients are treated with the best hearing care possible.