East Texas doctor shares concerns about over-the-counter hearing aids

East Texas doctor shares concerns about over-the-counter hearing aids
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 1:36 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 7:01 PM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that over-the -counter hearing aids will soon be allowed to be sold to adults with mild hearing loss. They could be coming to shelves as soon as mid-october.

East Texas Audiologist Mark Hedrick says, “We know that hearing aids that are going to be over the counter are not as good as what you would get in your audiologist’s office.”

He said a big concern among audiologists is people buying over-the-counter hearing aids and the device not performing how the person was hoping.

“It’s not a very good one, you have a very bad experience, a bad taste in your mouth, and you give up, and you never try it again even though you need it,” Hedrick said.

The FDA issued the final rule in hopes to improve access and at lower costs for close to 30 million Americans.

“There’s this one where you pay 99 dollars a month with the promise of future upgrades and this sort of stuff,” he said. “If you had those for seven years, like the average hearing aid patient has theirs, you would pay way more than you would for hearing aids at your audiologist, without personal service.”

Hedrick said there are circumstances where over-the-counter devices could work for people.

“If you take somebody who’s very sedentary and financially challenged and they would like to hear the TV and hear their relatives, something really basic might be okay for them,” he said.

As for the possibility of someone hurting themself when trying to put it in, he believes there isn’t a strong chance that people can physically hurt themselves.

“They’re going to be engineered not to go so far down in the ear. They do tend to be fairly mildly powered, from what I’ve seen thus far, which is going to keep people from hurting themself,” Hedrick said. “Because if you have a hearing aid that’s too loud, just like we see with any other noise exposure, too much noise can be bad thing. They are engineered in such a way I don’t think that’s going to be much of a concern. It’s more of the underpowered thing, you don’t get enough power or correction to be adequately helpful.”

Hedrick does want to remind people that if they choose to try out the OTC option and it doesn’t work for them, “If they’re bound and determined to try it, try it. But if it doesn’t work, don’t give up because there’s those of us who have 20 plus years of experience and a lot of equipment and familiarity with where this industry has been for the past 20 years and where it’s going. And I think we could be a lot of help to them,” Hedrick said.

The hearing aids could be in traditional retail and drug stores as soon as mid-October.