Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids
It’s official! As of October 17, 2022, you can now purchase hearing aids without a prescription thanks to a final rule established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, millions of Americans will now have access to these devices through local retailers or online – no medical exam or fitting by an audiologist needed.
Who should consider OTC hearing aids?
The new rule applies to adults (18+) with recognizable signs of mild to moderate hearing loss, which includes but is not limited to the following situations:
- Trouble hearing conversations in a noisy restaurant
- Frequently asking others to repeat what was said, and/or
- Turning up the TV/music to levels that are uncomfortable to others
Children under 18 or anyone suffering from severe* or more complex hearing loss should not use an OTC hearing aid.
*The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines severe hearing loss as hearing no speech when a person is talking at a normal level and only some loud sounds.
How do I know if I have mild to moderate hearing loss?
It is strongly recommended by industry experts that you get a hearing test – especially before making a purchase. If your insurance does not cover hearing tests, or if you cannot afford or choose not to visit a hearing professional, other options include testing via smartphone apps or online hearing tests. However, it’s important to note that your ability to hear sounds depends on the environment along with the sound quality of your phone or device being used.
Unsure about your hearing levels? There is an increasing number of resources providing information about self assessments for hearing. Take a quick online test to find out if you need to have your hearing tested by a health professional.
Where can I buy OTC hearing aid devices?
These devices will be available both in stores – pharmacies, big box chains, electronic stores – and online directly from manufacturers in addition to major retail hubs. While some retailers have publicly announced they will be selling hearing aids at stores nationwide, other retailers are currently only selling in specific locations. Online options might be beneficial for those with limited access to a brick-and-mortar retailer, including rural communities or areas where local retailers are not yet selling OTC hearing aids.
Online Buying Tip: Advertising can sometimes be misleading. If you’re skeptical about buying from an online store and have limited access to purchasing an item in-person, take a moment to do a bit of research first and contact your nearest retailer or healthcare provider to help answer your questions.
How much do they cost?
OTC hearing aids provide consumers with more affordable options. Manufactures of these devices are estimating that their models may sell between $200 and $1,000 per pair, depending on the type of device, style, and features included. By comparison, purchasing prescription hearing aids through an audiologist can frequently cost at least $5,000 a pair. The FDA estimates that increased access to OTC hearing aids will save consumers approximately $63 million per year. Now that’s music to our ears!
Return Policy: Before you buy an OTC hearing aid, ask about the retailer’s return policy and hearing aid manufacturer’s warranty. The recommendation is to choose a device with a generous return policy (at least 30 days) as it might take several weeks to know whether new hearing aids might work for your unique situation.
Other Important OTC Hearing Aid Information
Always read and follow the label carefully. Look for the words “over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid” listed on the package.
- Research different brands to learn more about them and select the right option for your specific needs.
- Be sure to check for smartphone requirements as certain devices may require you to download and use an app on your smartphone - and some of those may only work with iPhones and not Androids. Please read the maker's website closely or review the material inside the package provided.