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Christian Thompson
Christian Thompson

Buy Hearing Aids Over The Counter

Did you know that your hearing health is an important measure of your overall wellness? Research shows that hearing loss can lead to a host of other health problems, such as depression, falls, and even dementia.1 The good news is that hearing aids can not only help you hear better, they can also improve brain function and your quality of life.2

buy hearing aids over the counter

But hearing aids are an expensive purchase, making it difficult for many Americans to get treatment for their hearing loss. On Oct. 17, 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took a big step toward increasing access to hearing aids for millions of Americans by making over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids available for sale nationwide.

What exactly are OTC hearing aids, and how can you buy them? Read our review of the best OTC hearing aid brands to find out how much they cost, where you can buy them, and what to consider before purchasing. For information on both OTC and prescription hearing aids, read our review of the best hearing aids of 2023.

The federal government estimates that over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids could save Americans up to $3,000 off the average price of a pair of prescription hearing aids, which is $4,600.3 Jabra Enhance devices deliver even greater savings with good quality hearing aids that can be remotely adjusted by the Jabra Enhance audiology team to fit your hearing profile. Take a look at Table 2 for an overview of the models offered by Jabra Enhance.

The most notable difference between the top two models is that the Enhance Select 200 has the most advanced hearing technology Jabra offers for a natural hearing experience. The Enhance Plus and Enhance Select 200 also include hands-free calling with iPhone 11 and newer, so you can take phone calls with your hearing aids by connecting them to your phone with Bluetooth. Bluetooth streaming is available on all Jabra Enhance models with Apple devices and Androids with OS version 9.0 or later.

Not only is the quality of your hearing aids important, the customer care that you receive in the years after your purchase can make all the difference in how much you benefit from using your hearing aids. Jabra Enhance delivers on all points related to customer care, making it a good choice for older adults who are new to hearing aids.

As with all OTC hearing aids, Audien devices are meant for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Both of its FDA-registered models, the Atom and Atom Pro, are small in-the-canal hearing aids with a rechargeable battery. Neither one has Bluetooth capabilities nor advanced sound processing features like directional microphones, noise reduction, or the ability to be customized to fit your type of hearing loss.

Manufacturers of self-fitting hearing aids must prove to the FDA that their devices can be adjusted by the user similarly to how a hearing specialist would adjust them. Their devices can then be advertised as FDA-cleared, which is also called 510(k) FDA approval.

Another feature offered only in the Lumen is a telecoil, also known as a T-coil or T-switch. Telecoils work with assistive-listening technology (called induction loop systems) in other sound equipment to help you hear more clearly. When activated in the hearing aid, the telecoil routes sounds directly to your hearing aids without the need for Bluetooth pairing.

Public places of worship, theaters, auditoriums, and museums are often equipped with induction loop technology to allow you to use a telecoil for a better listening experience. Telecoil-equipped hearing aids can also make talking on a landline telephone easier by reducing feedback.

Eargo hearing aids provide Bluetooth connectivity, so you can use the Eargo mobile app for making adjustments and getting remote support from an Eargo hearing specialist. But Eargo hearing aids are too small to include Bluetooth streaming technology. If streaming music or phone calls to your hearing aids is important to you, consider OTC brands Jabra Enhance or Audicus, both of which provide that feature.

While increased competition among OTC hearing aid manufacturers is expected to drive prices down, hearing aids are still an expensive purchase. For many people, financing can mean the difference between treating their hearing loss and having to wait.

Finally, Audicus finances its hearing aids directly, with 6-, 12-, or 18-month payment plans. With multiple hearing aid models and payment plans to choose from, a wide range of customers can find something from Audicus that works for both their hearing needs and their budget.

One important consideration with any type of hearing aid is the quality of care you receive after the purchase, and we were impressed with the remote care offered by MDHearing. The father of one of our Reviews Team members recently purchased MDHearing Volt+ hearing aids. On the first day, he experienced some whistling in one of the devices, which can be caused by feedback, earwax, or not having the device fully inserted into the ear canal.

OTC hearing aids are not the same as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). Unlike hearing aids, PSAPs magnify all sounds equally, are not designed to treat hearing loss, and are not regulated by the FDA.7

OTC hearing aids began hitting stores in October 2022, and you can now buy them online and in stores that carry health care devices, such as Walgreens, Best Buy, and Walmart. Look for OTC hearing aids in the pharmacy section.

The FDA has developed a set of regulations that apply to all OTC hearing aids in order to ensure their safety for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.8 These regulations outline details like how OTC hearing aids can be labeled, the degree to which they can magnify sounds, and how far they can be inserted in the ear.

OTC hearing aids that are not self-fitting (but instead have preset profiles you can select from) are designated by the FDA as Class I medical devices, meaning they pose little or no risk of harm when used according to the label instructions. These devices are typically only FDA-registered.

Self-fitting hearing aids, because they involve more detailed adjustments by the user, are Class II medical devices and require the manufacturer to submit clinical research findings, safety data, and performance information to prove their safety and efficacy.

A number of factors influence the cost of hearing aids. Features and technology are two of the biggest indicators of cost. Audien, for example, is a budget hearing aid that starts at a price of $99 per pair, but it has very few features.

At the higher end of OTC hearing aid prices is Audicus, with a cost of $2,998 for a pair of Omni hearing aids. They offer multiple listening profiles, automatic sound adjustments between environments, Bluetooth streaming, a smartphone app, and advanced sound processing.

U.S. veterans can receive hearing exams, hearing aids, and hearing aid supplies free of charge if they are eligible for VA health care. Check with your local VA office to find out what benefits you have.12

Medicare A and B do not cover the costs of hearing exams, hearing aids, or hearing aid supplies such as batteries, but some Medicare Advantage plans do. Check with your insurance provider to see if your plan includes hearing coverage.

Medicaid coverage is different in each state. You can find the Medicaid hearing coverage available in your state through the Hearing Loss Association of America or by contacting your Medicaid case manager.13

OTC hearing aids are a good solution for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. If your hearing loss is severe or profound, see an audiologist or other hearing care professional for advice on getting prescription hearing aids.

OTC hearing aids are a significant step forward in making hearing loss treatment more accessible to millions of Americans. If you have mild to moderate hearing loss and budget is your primary concern, Audien is a low-cost hearing aid that may meet your needs.

If you can afford to spend more and want advanced features like background noise reduction, feedback cancellation, and Bluetooth connectivity, look into Jabra Enhance or Eargo. And for hearing aids that can be fine-tuned at home, Lexie is a good choice.

Prescription hearing aids require an in-person hearing exam, a prescription, and purchase of the hearing aids through a hearing care clinic. You also need to have the devices fitted and programmed in the clinic, which may be bundled into the up-front cost of your hearing aids or charged separately.

OTC hearing aids operate with similar technology to prescription hearing aids, but the buying process and customer experience are different. With OTC hearing aids, you can take a hearing test in-person or online, buy them without a prescription directly from the manufacturer or from a retailer that sells hearing aids, and fit and adjust them at home.

Unlike prescription hearing aids, OTC hearing aids are only meant to treat mild to moderate hearing loss in people 18 years and older. Prescription hearing aids are available for people of all ages, and for all types and degrees of hearing loss.

A variety of hearing aid manufacturers are moving into the OTC hearing aid market, including many that previously sold direct-to-consumer hearing aids. These brands include MDHearing, Eargo, Jabra Enhance, Audicus, Lexie, and Audien, among others.

Medicare Part A and B do not pay for the cost of hearing aids, exams, or supplies. Some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans do cover certain costs associated with hearing aids. Contact your insurance provider to see which benefits your plan includes.

Pharmacies and other retailers began to stock OTC hearing aids in mid-October. But shopping for these hearing aids, which are also sold online, may not be quite as simple as going to the drugstore to buy aspirin or even reading glasses.

This should mean far lower costs for most consumers since traditional hearing aids can run $2,000 to $4,000 a pair, according to Kate Carr, president of the Hearing Industries Association trade group in Washington, D.C. Premium aids can cost as much as $6,000 per ear. 041b061a72


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