Otc Hearing Aids Are Otw Heres What An Audiologist Wants You To Tune Into
As retailers from Best Buy to Walgreens prepare to sell over-the-counter hearing aids when they become available next month, an MUSC Health audiologist has some advice for people considering buying them.
First of all, they arent for everyone with hearing loss, said Meredith Duffy, AuD.
These devices are really only recommended for people with a perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. If there are other symptoms or issues like ringing in the ears, a history of ear infections, drainage, pain in the ears, ear deformities, vertigo or dizziness or a sense that one ear is better or worse than the other, these are all reasons to see both an ear, nose and throat doctor and an audiologist before pursuing the OTC hearing aids. They would probably need to be fit with the more traditional prescriptive hearing aids.
Duffy said theyre also not recommended for people under the age of 18. It is very important for children and teens with hearing loss to be fit correctly with hearing aids by a pediatric audiologist. The customized programming is very important to ensure the hearing aids never get too loud, are appropriate for the childs hearing level and age and provide access to important speech sounds needed for normal language development and learning in school.
But people who do qualify for over-the-counter hearing aids could see and hear real benefits, Duffy said.
Purchase Through A Discount Network
Another option is to purchase the same devices available at an audiologists office or hearing center from a discount network such as Zip Hearing for up to 35% less than retail price. When you purchase hearing aids through this network, youll be connected with an audiologist in your area for further care. If you are a veteran, check with your local Veteran Affairs medical center about meeting with an audiologist, getting a hearing test, and determining what hearing aid is right for you.
Larger retailers stores, such as Walmart and Costco, may also sell hearing aids. The majority of the hearing aid users we surveyed used Kirkland hearing aids from Costco. The next most-popular brand in our survey was Eargo with 8%.
What You Need To Know Before Buying Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have come a long way. We heard that phrase a lotfrom hearing-loss-community advocates, audiologists, hearing-technology experts, and our test panelists. Thanks to a combination of technological advancement, increased demand, and legislation, entry-level-priced devices available now are as good as or better than most expensive hearing aids from five or six years ago. If youve tried hearing aids in the past and gotten less-than-successful results, dont automatically judge todays devices by the one collecting dust in your drawer.
Its important to check your hearing regularly because, unfortunately, many people who need hearing assistance dont realize it right away. The human brain is remarkably adept at adjusting to progressive hearing loss, said Angela Shoup, past president of the American Academy of Audiology. As hearing ability and sound input reduce over time, the brains pathways change. This means people are bad at judging their own hearing ability this is valuable to consider because your level of hearing loss will influence which type of hearing-augmentation device will work best for you.
Hearing aids have come a long way. If youve tried hearing aids in the past and gotten less-than-successful results, dont automatically judge todays devices by the one collecting dust in your drawer.
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Where To Buy Over The Counter Hearing Aids
OTC hearing aids are already available online from manufacturers such as Eargo, Lively, Audicus, and MDHearing. They will also be sold in stores as soon as mid-October, according to the FDA press release.
OTC hearing aids will likely be available from retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, Best Buy, and other stores that carry health care devices.
How To Find The Best
Unlike a custom-fitted prescription hearing aid, theres likely to be some trial and error with an over-the-counter device.
A hearing aid should fit snugly so that it doesnt move around, but it should ultimately be barely noticeable.
To ensure you get the best fitting device, choose hearing aids that come with a free trial period. And if the fit isnt right, you can return the devices for a full refund.
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A Brief History Of Otc Hearing Aids
The first vacuum-tube hearing aid was invented in the early 1920s. At first, hearing aids were simply amplifiers that made everything louder, but over time, hearing aids got smarter, and audiologists began programming devices to match prescription targets.
For 50 years, hearing aid sales were largely unregulated, and false advertising, poor service, and market confusion became the norm.
In 1977 the FDA stepped in and classified hearing aids as a medical device requiring a hearing professional’s medical prescription.
The move fixed the wild-west atmosphere around hearing health, but it had another significant effect. Almost immediately, prices went up, and competition slowed.
In 2022, devices have improved with artificial intelligence, rechargeable batteries, and Bluetooth streaming, but the treatment process remains roughly the same.
Become aware of your hearing loss
Go to a local audiologist or dispenser
Devices are programmed by a professional, and follow-up tune-ups occur
Repeat the process every 3-5 years
So whats the issue?
This process works ok for some Americans who live close to an audiologist and have $5,000-$7,000 to spend every 3-5 years.
For millions of others, the cost is too high, and its too hard to get to an audiologist for the multiple appointments necessary.
On , 2017, the bill earned bipartisan support in the U.S. House. Three weeks later, on , the Senate passed the bill to the presidents desk.
2017 through 2021 – The Waiting Game
Can I Buy Otc Hearing Aids Now
You can purchase certain direct-to-consumer hearing products online to help you hear better in certain situations, and in some instances, they are the same models being sold in audiologist offices. However, those devices are not specifically approved for online sale by the FDA. In fact, some manufacturers of direct-to-consumer hearing products are already advertising their devices as OTC hearing aids despite the fact that the FDAs final rule isnt expected to take effect until October 2022.
During this period, bad actors have stepped in to fill this vacuum and begun to advertise OTC hearing aids on television and on the internet , according to the HLAA. These manufacturers claim to be FDA cleared or FDA registered, but registration is an FDA administrative designation, not an approval or clearance of the device.
Direct-to-consumer hearing products include:
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What If I Already Own Otc Hearing Aids
Already own devices from another provider or from the store/online? Wed be happy to help! Often devices can be optimized and improved using our best practice fitting and programming methods. Our unbundled billing model make us the perfect provider to assess your devices, only charging you for the services you need. While OTC hearing aids are not programmable, we can assist you in making them more comfortable and provide guidance on their performance and effectiveness. Make an appointment with one our audiologists to see if your current devices are providing you your best hearing. It is also important to remember that hearing treatment should be more than the device. Aural rehabilitation and counseling can further improve your ability to communicate.
Increased Access To Hearing Aids
The FDAs final ruling on OTC hearing aids is meant to increase access to hearing aids by removing some of the barriers that often keep people from seeking treatment for hearing loss. The high price of hearing aids, the perceived stigma of wearing them, and the concern that hearing aids arent effective are all common reasons that people with hearing loss wait an average of 10 years before buying hearing aids.9
Hadassah Kupfer, an audiologist in Brooklyn, New York, believes we should be celebrating the new FDA ruling as a success that will expand hearing aid access. As an audiologist, I know that adjusting and fitting hearing aids for specific use takes considerable time and understanding. OTC will not be for every type of hearing loss, but if it opens a door for those previously unwilling to seek professional help, I would consider that a success, says Kupfer.
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Best Hearing Aids Of 2021
|Best BTE||Best for Severe Hearing Loss|
|Signia â Styletto X|
An estimated 15% of American adults, roughly 37.5 million people, suffer from some form of hearing loss, according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
To help you compare models and product features, we created a variety of categories and gathered a list of the best hearing aids in the industry today, including companies like Signia, Starkey and Phonak.
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How We Tested Over
Our testing process consisted of both objective and subjective testing and took many months to complete. For the objective testing, we focused on measuring each devices maximum gain and its frequency response .
We were surprised to learn from our sources that, despite the fact that PSAPs and hearables have a legally limited amount of gain based on ANSI standards, there isnt an FDA oversight board that tests the efficacy or safety of any hearing-augmentation device, including hearing aids. The entire industry essentially polices itself by relying on doctors and wearers to flag deviations or return the things they buy. Because we know the potential risks of listening at too-loud volume levels, we wanted to find out whether any of the devices that we called in would fall outside the ANSI gain specifications.
Senior staff writer Brent Butterworth and I met with Linda Kozma-Spytek, senior research audiologist at the Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University, to discuss what we might be able to reasonably measure. Brent used his GRAS Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator with a KB5000 simulated pinna, in conjunction with an Audiomatica Clio 12 audio analyzer and TrueRTA software, to analyze the frequency response and the gain of our test samples. We then compared these numbers to the ANSI PSAP or hearing-aid standards to check that they fell within guidelines.
Heres a quick snapshot of our panelists:
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Otc Hearing Aids Are Long Overdue For Consumers
In the United States, the number of people with hearing impairment has been increasing yearly. However, consumers are often not able to afford medical hearing aids due to the high cost. The average price of a single hearing aid is $2,300, and since they are usually sold in pairs, the average cost is $4,600 for a pair. When insurance does not cover these devices, this price point makes it hard for everyone to easily purchase a hearing aid.
This is why the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Academies recommended a new, easier way to purchase this category of hearing aids at a lower cost.
This new crop of OTC hearing aids will come in many shapes and sizes, with a variety of added functions. For example, some will offer personalized volume control and sound adjustment that used to require the services of an audiologist. Along with new features, consumers may find new styles that barely resemble the traditional behind-the-ear models of todays hearing aids
Consumers can look forward to many benefits from the FDAs proposed plan to open up the market to over-the-counter hearing aids. However, youll still have to stay vigilant to ensure that you dont end up ordering poor quality devices that wont help your hearing at all.
Things To Keep In Mind About Over
- Theyre not for all levels of hearing loss. According to the FDA proposal, OTC hearing aids are for those who have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. If your hearing loss is more profound, you will need a prescription hearing aid that offers more functions, features, and controls.
- Theyre not custom-fit. Unlike brands like ReSound and Starkey, which offer custom hearing aids based on ear size, shape, and structure, over-the-counter hearing aids will not be professionally molded to your ears. This one-size-fits-most method may result in an uncomfortable or incorrect fit.
- The quality may not meet your expectations. A lower quality over-the-counter hearing aid may not deliver a seamless hearing experience. OTC hearing aids most likely wont come with assistance from an audiologist, making it challenging to troubleshoot if your hearing aid malfunctions.
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How The Rule Will Improve Access To Hearing Aids
In 2017, Congress passed legislation requiring the FDA to permit the sale of OTC hearing aids without a prescription.
In June 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order instructing the Health and Human Services Department to improve the availability of low-cost hearing aids.
In October 2021, the FDA reviewed thousands of public comments from patients, public health organizations, and advocacy groups on the proposed rule.
The final rule, which was published on August 16, 2022, will go into effect mid-October 2022.
There are many requirements regarding the hearing aids, including the maximum sound output, how deep the aid can be inserted in the ear canal, the need for a user-adjustable volume control, and the inclusion of clear, simple instructions for use.
Hearing aid manufacturers will have until April 2023 to comply with the new requirements.
How We Research And Review Hearing Aids
Our Reviews Team tests the waterproof claims of various hearing aids
We only recommend hearing devices that we think will have a positive impact for our readers, so we began our testing process by reviewing hearing aid research. We also consulted with audiologists and geriatric care experts to better understand the research, the needs of people with hearing loss, and the hearing aid brands and models on the market. We read thousands of reviews on trusted third-party sites such as Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot to understand customers experiences and where they think hearing aids are falling short. Next, we conducted a survey to discover what people love about their hearing aids, what features they use, and what their biggest challenges are. We focused on brands that:
- Are widely available
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What Are The Best Dtc Hearing Aids
While there are many brands of hearing aids available, not all offer the same features or are as comfortable as users prefer. Below, weve gathered information about the top three DTC hearing aids that you can buy online.
|Overview of the Best DTC Hearing Aids|
- Advanced feedback reduction
- Starts at $2,450 per pair
Eargo hearing devices are known for being some of the most comfortably-fitting devices, and the company offers both pre-programmed and custom-fitted models available from a hearing specialist.
The Eargo 5 is more advanced than other Eargo devices. This model is crafted to provide an enhanced hearing experience, including feedback reduction that allows for more clarity of sound. It also has noise-reduction capabilities, making it easier for users to discern conversations and sounds even in crowded environments. Most importantly, Eargo 5 is equipped with Sound Match technology, which enables remote hearing aid tuning and adjustments from an audiologist.
Many seniors prefer hearing aids with a discreet design or devices that dont look like traditional over-the-ear hearing aids. Like other prescription hearing aids from the Eargo line, the Eargo 5 is a CIC design and can be nearly invisible when worn properly. Eargos proprietary Flexi TetraPalm technology has a flexis layer for greater comfort, allowing users to wear their hearing aids for hours without discomfort.
Best Psap For Occasional Hearing Augmentation: Tweak Enhance
Who its for: People on a budget, those with limited smartphone access, and those who need hearing amplification only occasionally.
Why its great: The Tweak Enhance is legally considered a personal sound amplification product for now, but its design and technology are similar to those of traditional behind-the-ear hearing aids. This is one of the few PSAPs that our panelists said they would purchase. Most similarly priced and cheaper PSAPs we tested had a too-broad or generic approach in their hearing augmentation, but the Tweak Enhances amplification and situational sound settings provided a meaningful boost, and the app offers useful hearing customization. Although you must connect the Enhance to a smartphone app for the initial setup, you can make all other day-to-day adjustments on the device itself, a helpful feature for people who want hearing amplification thats specific to their ears but dont want to rely on a smartphone. The Tweak Enhance is just for amplifying sounds around you, so this PSAP cant stream music or callsbut for some people, thats acceptable or even preferable. The Enhance is sold individually or as a pair , which provides nice flexibility for people who need only a little boost in one ear. The 30-day money-back guarantee gives you some time to acclimate before making a decision, and though the six-month warranty is far from the best coverage weve seen, you can purchase an extended warranty that covers you for two years with no deductible.
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The Pharmacists Role In Otc Hearing Aids
While OTC hearing aids wont require consultation with a medical professional or a hearing test, pharmacists will play an important role in ensuring their safe and effective use.
Community pharmacists, among the most accessible of health care providers, are trained to identify, prevent and resolve medication problems. Pharmacists additionally have long helped patients purchase medical devices and equipment like glucometers for diabetes testing and blood pressure monitors for hypertension without a prescription.
Community pharmacists are readying themselves to help patients select and purchase OTC hearing aids. In certain cases, pharmacists will refer some patients to audiologists and physicians for additional evaluation, treatment and care. They may also follow up with patients to ensure the device works as expected. To prepare pharmacists for this new role, the University of Pittsburgh has developed an online program to teach pharmacists and pharmacy technicians how to help patients safely choose OTC hearing aids.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Sept. 21, 2021.