If you are experiencing hearing loss in La Verne, you’ll soon be able to purchase hearing aids directly from retail shelves provided the FDA releases guidelines as expected. This is a direct result of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017.
Pros & Cons of OTC Hearing Aids
Hearing loss impacts about one in every five people in California. Research shows that only 20 percent of adults with a hearing impairment seek treatment; high costs are one of the barriers preventing individuals from using hearing aids. That may be changing soon thanks to the 2017 legislation that was sponsored by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act’s goal is to make hearing aids more affordable and easily available. In order for these products to be sold directly to the consumer, they must meet the following criteria:
- Provide reasonable assurances of safety and efficacy
- Establish output limits and labeling requirements
- Describe requirements for the sale of hearing aids in-person, by mail or online, without a prescription
The Food and Drug Administration has been tasked with item #3—creating a set of guidelines to determine how the law should be carried out. All indications are that the FDA will issue these as early as January, paving the way for the sale of OTC hearing aids by August 2020.
On the surface this sounds like a good idea, and there are some definite advantages to being able to buy hearing aids directly from a retailer. It gives consumers the ability to take charge of their own hearing health; they will be able to buy hearing aids without having to undergo an examination by an audiologist. While prices will vary, they’ll almost certainly cost less than what most manufacturers charge nowadays. Indeed, a retail category of personal sound amplification products already exists; they are essentially hearing aids (though they can’t legally be labeled as such—at least not yet), and retail for considerably less money.
The Drawbacks of OTC Convenience
While low prices, convenience and easy availability are big selling points, there are some serious drawbacks to purchasing hearing aids off the shelf. They’re really only designed for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Think of eyeglasses: if you just need help reading fine print, you’re okay walking into a drugstore and picking up a pair of reading glasses. But if you have a vision impairment, readers won’t do the trick; you’ll need stronger prescription lenses designed for your specific needs. Without a thorough hearing evaluation from an audiologist in La Verne, you’ll have no way of knowing the degree of your impairment. OTC hearing aids will come with factory presets for hearing loss, but it’s doubtful these will be precise enough to benefit most patients.
“A hearing aid that’s fit by a professional is fit to a prescriptive target based on scientific research so that the volume is set to how someone hears at those exact frequencies,” says Cynthia Hogan, PhD, audiologist and director of the Mayo Clinic’s hearing program in Rochester, MN. A professional fitting and subsequent fine-tuning from a La Verne audiologist are essential in ensuring hearing aids will meet a patient’s unique needs.
Another concern: there are many different causes of hearing loss; if there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated, you’ll be putting your long-term health at risk—and probably won’t benefit from OTC hearing aids.
As with most new technology, there are going to be pluses and minuses associated with OTC hearing aids. It’s best to meet with an audiologist in La Verne to assess the extent of your hearing impairment before you commit to purchasing hearing aids.