New York – Federal health officials are preparing a new plan that would allow most people to buy hearing aids without a prescription.
The US Food and Drug Administration unveiled a landmark proposal with hopes of making the devices more accessible to people who have mild to moderate hearing loss. Under the new scheme, one will be able to buy hearing aids over the counter at any pharmacy, other retail store or even order them online.
Katherine Bouton is the author of shouting won’t help, a memoir about coping with adult-onset hearing loss. After ignoring his deafness for years, Bouton had to get a cochlear implant in his left ear.
“It benefits the actual people who are going to be wearing those hearing aids and it benefits the rest of us because it helps normalize hearing loss,” she said.
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The FDA says that 15% of American adults — or about 37.5 million people — have at least some hearing loss. The agency also says that only one in five people who may benefit from hearing aids actually uses them.
“There are some access issues for hearing aids in many areas of the United States, and at the same time, there is a problem of finances and coverage thereof,” said Dr. George Vana, chief of otology and neurotology at Mount Sinai. Health System, told Granthshala 5 NY.
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For decades, the FDA has regulated hearing aids as prescription medical devices, but insurance companies generally do not cover them.
The new proposition will create competition and bring down prices, potentially saving consumers thousands of dollars.
Vana said she is on board with the plan, as long as her patients have previously ruled out any serious or potentially life-threatening causes of hearing loss.
“Hearing loss can be a sign of some serious disease, very rarely, but it can happen,” he said.
There’s no timeline yet for when consumers may be able to buy hearing aids over the counter, but the FDA’s proposal now has 90 days for public comment.