On August 16, 2022, after five years of planning, discussing, and drafting legislation, the FDA handed down a final rule on over-the-counter hearing aids. Previously, prescription hearing aids were the only FDA regulated hearing devices available on the market. Under the new law, a new category of hearing aid was created to allow consumers who perceive mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase hearing aids from retail establishments without having to first obtain a hearing exam or be fit by a hearing professional. These products are projected to hit the market by mid-October 2022. The purpose of this new law is to widen the access to hearing technology for those with mild hearing losses. With reduced costs and convenient accessibility, the hope behind OTC hearing aids is that more people with mild hearing losses will seek hearing loss treatment sooner. Improving access to hearing aids will undoubtedly help millions of people who otherwise may not have pursued hearing solutions. While the audiology community is confident that this is a step forward in helping many to gain access to more affordable hearing care, it is still widely agreed upon that patients’ hearing care is best served in hands of a hearing care professional.

Hearing care professionals want consumers to be informed before purchasing OTC hearing products. The first thing consumers need to know when considering OTC hearing aids is that they are not meant to treat moderately to severe (or worse) hearing losses. Their only intended use is for mild to moderate hearing losses. The best way to explain the intended use of OTC hearing aids is by comparing them to OTC glasses. For instance, just as “readers” from the drug store are meant for mild eye-sight correction for reading, OTC hearing aids are meant to help mild hearing losses. For mild vision losses, OTC readers are truly sufficient. However, for greater eye site discrepancies or for longer daily wear needs, most consumers will need more precision from prescription strength. This same principle applies to OTC hearing aids. When hearing loss first becomes noticeable, a little extra volume is usually all that is needed to enhance hearing. As hearing loss progresses, however, device feedback (whistling) and speech clarity become frequent issues. Research on self-fitting OTC hearing aids shows that patients most commonly increase the incorrect frequencies (bass) when fitting themselves, which leads to poorer hearing in background noise. By having a hearing professional on your side (even with OTC product use) pitfalls can be avoided and optimal results can be accomplished.

The new ruling inhibits any vendor from requiring preliminary hearing tests before providing or serving a consumer with OTC hearing aids. This said, it is important for consumers to use caution and discretion when self-diagnosing a loss of any kind. Of course, it is good for consumers to be aware of their hearing health, however, a self-diagnosis solely based on perception can be risky. This is because the perception of hearing loss is not always an accurate indicator of the actual hearing loss present. Therefore, it is impossible for consumers to truly identify the extent hearing loss without an examination from a professional. Studies show that hearing professionals play a pivotal role in a patients’ success with hearing devices.

While it cannot and will not be required to see a provider before purchasing an OTC device, it truly is in the patients’ best interest to have their hearing checked. A visit to the audiologist to confirm degree of loss will maximize chances of success with an OTC device. The providers at Pro Hearing strive to exceed patients’ expectations and desire to set all patients up for success with their devices. It is our desire to help all patients hear to the best of their ability. In light of this new and exciting ruling, we are expanding our services to include service plans for patients who need assistance with their OTC hearing devices! We encourage anyone who suspects any level of hearing loss to have their hearing tested. This is the best way to confirm the presence of hearing loss and to know for sure if an OTC can accommodate one’s hearing needs. If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss or need help with your OTC product, call us today!

Dr. Pam Matthews, Audiologist
Pro Hearing, LLC
9409 N May Avenue and 10404 S Pennsylvania Ave
Oklahoma City, OK

NW Oklahoma City: CALL 405-775-9875

SW Oklahoma City:  CALL 405-378-4165