A ‘game changer’ for millions of Americans: You can now buy hearing aids over the counter

Jen Christensen, CNN

(CNN) – Pete Kust said it was his wife who first noticed him turning up the TV louder than she liked.

“I couldn’t hear those words in the movies anymore,” admitted Coust, who lives outside Washington, DC.

Watching TV isn’t Cust’s only problem. In his church choir, he can’t always hear his part and get the scene right. This also influenced his work at the Fire Safety Research Institute, non-commercial which creates safety research. The 61-year-old said he feels less efficient in assessing audio quality when his team creates their own rescue videos for firefighters.

“It affects every part of my life,” she said.

She saw an audiologist who said she needed hearing aids, but they would cost her more than $6,000. “I thought, ‘Maybe it can wait,'” Cust said.

That was seven years ago.

The wait may be over for Cust and millions of other Americans. On Monday, for the first time, adults with mild to moderate hearing loss will be able to purchase hearing aids in the US. Those under 18 or with severe hearing loss need a prescription.

Helping millions

The US Food and Drug Administration reported on this long awaited rule change in August, offering options that should be cheaper and possibly better.

Now, instead of getting a prescription and custom fitting with a hearing care professional, adults can buy hearing aids directly from a store or online. Some doctors estimate that 90% of the hearing impaired population can benefit from these commercially available devices.

Experts say the move is a “game changer”.

“We’ve been working for years to make hearing care accessible and affordable,” said Barbara Kelly, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “We’re really looking forward to Monday.”

Cust is certainly not alone in giving up hearing aids because they were too expensive, Kelly said. Just about 16% of the tens of millions of people with hearing loss use it hearing aidAccording to the National Institute on Hearing Loss and Other Communication Disorders.

The number of people with hearing loss is very high. About 1 in 8 people in the US age 12 and older have hearing loss in both ears, and the rate increases significantly with age. About a quarter of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and this increases to about 50% by age 75.

According to a 2020 study published in a medical journal, people spend an average of at least $4,000 out of pocket on hearing aids for both ears. YAMA. Prices may vary: Big retailers can offer a pair for around $1,400, but some can cost as much $6,000 per eardepending on the technology.

The FDA rule allowing hearing aids did not change the way the devices are covered. While private insurers pay for treatment after a limb is lost or even cover the cost of Viagra, most do not cover hearing aids. Most Medicare plans don’t pay for them either. Only about half of state Medicaid programs work.

More competition, more progress

Five companies so far 90% controlled global market for hearing aids. This kind of consolidation meant less price competition.

With the change, many companies are expected to enter the market. Experts say that the existing manufacturers, in addition to their current offers, also produce low-cost devices.

In White House said Monday that the hearing aids are available or soon to be available at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy and Hy-Vee, and some models cost about $200 a pair.

Sony has several models with an application that allows users to personalize settings and find additional support. The CRE-C10 retails for $999.99 and has a battery life of up to 70 hours of continuous use. The CRE-E10 has more of a headphone design and a rechargeable battery; It is Bluetooth compatible for streaming music or audio. It will be available on Sony’s website and at Amazon, Best Buy and other retailers for $1,299.99.

Bose has also teamed up with Lexie Hearing to offer the B1 model for $899 a pair. B2, for $999, adds a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 18 hours. Both models are Bluetooth enabled, can be customized by the user and paired with a mobile app for support. They are sold online, in drugstores and stores like Best Buy.

Best buy says its nearly 300 stores will offer a “hearing experience” that includes about 10 hearing aids and PSAPs, or sound amplification products. They amplify sound but do not meet FDA standards, unlike hearing aids, which must meet FDA’s high standards for labeling, manufacturing, and safety, just like other medical devices.

Best Buy encourages customers to take a hearing evaluation on its website before entering the store to work with trained associates to select a new device.

Why are hearing aids important?

Hearing aids are not only good; they are important for physical and mental health.

People with hearing loss who do not have hearing aids report more bad health overall, and they are less likely to leave the house or exercise, studies have found.

There is a link between hearing and general weakness and increases risk of fallingwhich, according to him, are the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide World Health Association.

Several studies have also shown a link between hearing loss and worse mental health and mental health.

Hearing loss can lead to it depressionalone and to be separate — even dementia.

“I have a big smile on my face right now,” says Dr. Frank Lin, director of the Center for Hearing and Public Health, as hearing aids become more accessible. He has been consulting with the government for eight years.

Lin said there is little innovation in this space due to market regulation.

“In 1977, because of the technology at the time, the only way hearing aids were safe and effective was for them to be programmed and fitted and professionally adjusted by a licensed provider,” he said. “But the market and that technology have changed dramatically.

“It gives companies like Samsung, Apple, Google — companies that are already making innovative headphones that they can now enter the market. They really couldn’t before.”

What to do

If you’re planning to buy an OTC hearing aid, be sure to read the return policy, Kelly said. The FDA did not require companies to provide it, as Kelly’s group pushed, but any return policy must be listed on the package.

Also check how much time you have to pay them back. Hearing aids are different from glasses; it may take your brain up to four weeks to adjust to hearing in a new way.

Try them out in different situations over a few weeks to see if they fit. Are they helpful in a crowded room or better at work? It is not one size fits all.

Kust said he would check with his insurance company to see if it would cover any of the cost of the OTC device. But finally, after all these years, he thinks he might be able to hear better soon.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Cust said. “I really am.”

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