by: Dr. Indira Álvarez, Clinical Director & Owner Palm Coast Hearing Center
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will release a final rule for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, transforming the hearing health-care landscape by creating a new regulatory class of hearing aids. While OTC hearing aids will be widely available at lower costs to many adults with self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, they are not right for everyone. At our Hearing Centers, we are happy and support this ruling that allows patients now more alternatives to care. We are standing by and ready to help you navigate your choices and help you make the best decision for you.
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids will be available soon. You may have questions about if OTC hearing aids will work for you. Keep reading so you can understand the important steps in determining the best type of hearing aid for you. It is thought that OTC hearing aids will cost on average $1,000 per pair. Any mention of OTC hearing aid costs is at best guess and will be determined by the companies that make them. The best way to know if OTC hearing aids will work for you is to see an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation. This evaluation will show you the degree of hearing loss and the part of the ear—outer, middle, or inner—that is causing your hearing loss. This information, taken together, will help you decide whether an OTC hearing aid is your best choice or if your needs would be better addressed by a prescription hearing aid.
OTC hearing aids will only work if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss. They are not effective for a moderate to severe degree of hearing loss. You must be 18 years or older to wear OTC hearing aids. Children should never wear them. You must consult a medical provider before buying an OTC hearing aid if you have any of the following medical conditions:
- ear deformity
- fluid, pus, or blood coming from the ear
- hearing loss or ringing (tinnitus) that occurs in only one ear or that is noticeably different in one ear
- pain or discomfort in the ear
- history of excessive earwax or feeling that something is in the ear
- sudden, quickly worsening, or fluctuating hearing loss
- vertigo or severe dizziness
Important Note: OTC hearing aids are purchased based on your own judgment. OTC hearing aids will only work for you if your loss is mild to moderate. It is easy to overestimate or underestimate your hearing difficulty. The most accurate diagnosis is made by an audiologist. Please note, individuals with cognitive or dexterity issues may not be suitable candidates for OTC hearing aids and should seek a consultation with an audiologist to get a recommendation that is appropriate to their needs.
Many places may sell OTC hearing aids: your local pharmacy, big-box stores such as Walmart, or even online. You will make the decision about what you buy, just like any other item on the shelf. You may be able to ask store staff for help; however, these staff members likely do not have specialized training in hearing loss and hearing technology programming. It is important to read all information on the box before buying a device. You may not be able to return the hearing aids once you buy them. Audiologists have extensive training in ear, hearing, and balance disorders and have either a doctoral or master’s degree. They can explain your hearing loss and help you consider the hearing aid that is best for you. At our Hearing Center we can also help you with basic maintenance of your OTC hearing aid for a service fee. We are experts in hearing health care, and can help you find a device and supply tips for you and your individual hearing needs. We can also check your hearing over time to see if it remains stable or worsens. Regular check-ins are important: they reveal whether your chosen hearing aid (OTC or prescription) is providing enough sound to meet your hearing needs, or whether we should discuss other options. The common goal between you as the patient and the audiologist as the provider is to help you create a plan and a path toward improved hearing.
At our Hearing Centers, our mission is to not only provide the best quality hearing care possible, but also to educate the community and help all patients make informed decisions so they can get the care they need and deserve. Visit our website, www.palmcoasthearingcenter.com or www.ormondhearingcenter.com to learn more and schedule an appointment. We have locations to serve you in Ormond and Palm Coast.