Roughly 15 percent of Americans report some form of hearing loss, but if you need hearing aids, getting them can be a lengthy process. It usually requires a hearing test, a consultation with a doctor and/or specialist, a device fitting, and a prescription. Today though, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally unveiled a proposal that’d make it so much easier for people with mild to moderate hearing loss to get these devices over the counter.
How can the FDA make hearing aids more widely available when many state laws require people to jump through certain hoops to get them? The agency says that it’s going to create a new category of aids that they could be sold directly to consumers without any exams or prescriptions and find ways to make them cost less than devices on the market. (Currently, the typical hearing aid is roughly $5,000 per pair.) These devices would have a number of different design and function requirements to ensure correct usage, including a maximum output limit so that no one over-amplifies sounds (and further damages their own hearing!).
That said, these aids would only cater to folks with milder hearing loss issues, while people with more severe cases would still need to see a doctor to find the technology that’s best for them. The FDA hasn’t explicitly said what’s considered a “severe” case. “Hearing loss has a profound impact on daily communication, social interaction and the overall health and quality of life for millions of Americans,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD explained in the agency’s press release. “The FDA’s proposed rule represents a significant step toward helping ensure that adults with mild to moderate hearing loss have improved access to more affordable and innovative product options.”
The FDA hasn’t said when over-the-counter hearing aids will be available or what the price will be, but it’s a step in the right direction that’ll make it infinitely easier for millions of people to get the help they need!