By mid-October, adults will be able to purchase hearing aids over the counter without a prescription. Here's everything you need to know.

Over the Counter Hearing Aids Promise to Expand Access 

For 30 million Americans that have mild to moderate hearing loss, getting a hearing aid is about to become much easier.  

By mid-October, adults 18 and up will be able to purchase hearing aids over the counter (OTC) without a doctor’s exam or prescription, under a new rule from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 

What are OTC hearing aids and where can I buy them?  

OTC hearing aids are a new category of hearing aids and they make sounds louder. They’re intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. The devices are regulated by the FDA. They will be available for sale online and in stores by mid-October.  

What are the benefits of buying an OTC hearing aid?  

Though hearing problems are common and affect 15% of American adults, only one in five people with hearing loss use a hearing aid. High costs of hearing aids have proven to be barriers in the past, as many individuals forgo purchasing one because they don’t think the benefit matches the high price tag.  

OTC hearing aids promise to be more affordable options, and more accessible as they don’t require health insurance, a doctor’s exam or a prescription.  

Untreated hearing loss is associated with more serious conditions including depression, anxiety, dementia, reduced mobility and falls.  

What are the risks of buying an OTC hearing aid?  

Consumers must be aware of any warranties, return policies or other consumer protections on the OTC hearing aids they are purchasing. Without the involvement of a licensed medical professional, individuals must troubleshoot issues directly with the manufacturer.   

Additionally, understanding the root cause of hearing loss takes a professional opinion. Without consulting a hearing health professional, consumers might be purchasing a product that won’t be effective for them. Meeting with a health care provider first is an important step to consider. 

How do I know my degree of hearing loss?  

Many individuals with hearing problems don’t know how severe the issue is. Additionally, hearing loss can be caused by a buildup of earwax. Visiting a health care provider is a good place to start. They can provide referrals to a hearing health professional who will provide a hearing test and advice about your hearing loss. This knowledge can better inform your decision on a course of treatment. Hearing health professionals include audiologists; ear, nose and throat doctors; and hearing aid specialists. 

Children and adults with more severe hearing loss or complex issues should see a hearing health professional to evaluate their condition and treatment options. Prescription hearing aids are highly recommended for individuals with severe hearing loss. 

Can I still get a prescription hearing aid?  

Yes. Individuals with hearing loss can still have a hearing aid prescribed by a hearing health professional after an exam.  

What does my insurance cover?  

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network plans cover hearing exams by hearing health professionals, as well as hearing aids. Members can use their health savings accounts to purchase hearing aids that are prescribed by a hearing health professional after an exam.  

Log in to your member account online at bcbsm.com to check what your plan offers to you. 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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