Over-the-counter hearing aids are now a reality thanks to legislation sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The legislation, recently approved by Congress, approved the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. These alternatives to traditional hearing aids available through a hearing healthcare provider may be a less expensive option for those in need, but according to surveys, many consumers are not yet sold on the idea.
Surveys conducted in 2017 by Healthy Hearing, an organization that promotes education about hearing loss and treatment options, showed surprising results about what would motivate first-time hearing aid users to purchase over the counter hearing aids and what they may find missing in the equation. The first survey, conducted in April of 2017, included 809 older adults, most of whom reported little hearing aid experience.
The second survey was conducted in September of 2017 and included 705 participants aged 50 years and older. Similar to the previous survey, the vast majority of participants reported normal hearing and little hearing aid experience. As the target audience of over-the-counter hearing aids, these survey groups provided invaluable insight to researchers. Here’s what you need to know about over-the-counter hearing aids and why you may or may not want to consider them.
Cost And Care Are Important
If you’ve considered hearing aids, you may be aware that the cost of traditional hearing aids is significantly higher than over-the-counter hearing aids. In many cases, the cost of hearing aids is also not covered by insurance providers. According to survey responses, many participants would pay no more than $100 per over the counter hearing aid on their own. This cost is significantly less than traditional hearing aids, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Many traditional hearing healthcare providers also include the cost of services such as fittings, adjustments, testing, and more into the cost of the hearing aids. Working with a hearing healthcare provider to find the right device includes a variety of services:
- A comprehensive hearing test to determine level and type of hearing loss as well as underlying factors
- Guidance on the type and features needed in a hearing aid
- A professional fitting for best results and comfort
- Counseling on how to use and maintain the hearing aid
- Follow-up appointments for ongoing adjustments
What may have been most surprising was that “only about 23 percent of respondents indicated a willingness to give up any services provided by a hearing care professional… consumers value the services of hearing care professionals, and there is still an important place for their work.”
While most hearing care providers work closely with patients to make traditional hearing aids affordable, over-the-counter hearing aids offer a budget-friendly alternative for many affected by hearing loss.
This theme of service and guidance by trusted and trained professionals carried throughout the two surveys. Participants stated again and again how important help in selecting the right device and follow-up care is. In fact, during the first survey, more than “93 percent of respondents said it was either ‘very important’ or ‘absolutely important’ to have a hearing care professional select, fit and program hearing devices.”
There is no doubt that over-the-counter hearing aids will change the hearing healthcare industry moving forward by providing additional options for those with hearing loss and offering a new way for trained professionals to help those consumers find the best solutions and provide the ongoing care they are seeking.