East Texas specialists discuss over-the-counter hearing aids

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 10:57 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 10:58 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Adults with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss could soon be able to buy a new category of hearing aids without a prescription.

On Tuesday, the FDA proposed to improve access and reduce the cost of hearing aid technology.

“In 2017, The over-the-counter hearing aid was passed and signed into law,” Hearing Loss Association of America Executive Director Barbara Kelley said. “And this required the FDA to open a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids that would be sold to adults only with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.”

Kelley said some people are hesitant to get prescribed hearing aids because of the cost, accessibility, and the stigma that hearing aids are for those who are older.

So with over-the-counter hearing devices, “Instead of maybe talking thousands of dollars for a hearing aid, which sometimes is covered by insurance, sometimes not - Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids - it could mean hundreds,” Kelley said.

Kelley said this will also open the door for consumer electronic companies.

NewSound Hearing Senior Hearing Estimate Specialist John Miguez said, “The first language was this to make hearing aids affordable. All it really accomplished is it allows them to reclassify or retitle over-the-counter amplifiers to hearing aids.”

Hearing Instrument Specialist Coy Weems compared the over-the-counter devices to reader glasses and prescribed glasses, effective, just not personalized.

“When you go turn it up, it’s just like the volume up on your TV,” Weems said. “When you turn the volume up on your TV, you’re not turning certain parts up, you’re turning certain spectrums up.”

“There’s a lot of people out there who do what I do that are afraid of the over-the-counter hearing aids,” Weems said. “I actually embrace them because it’s going to allow me to sit down with that person and say ‘This may be an entrance level solution for you. Down the road, when you figure out that this is not really taking care of the issue that you have, then we can go in and look at putting on a full-scale hearing solution for you.’”

Each specialist emphasized the importance of getting help sooner rather than later when it comes to hearing health care.

Now, there is a comment period until Jan 18 before the FDA finalizes the rules. “Take them all in, write the final rules, so it could be about a year before we see over-the-counter devices coming to market,” Kelley said.

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