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Over-the-counter hearing aids has become a popular topic this year. Previously, prescription hearing aids were the only FDA regulated hearing devices available on the market. However, in August of this year, the FDA gave a final ruling on a new category of hearing aids that allow devices to be sold over the counter directly to consumers (who perceive mild to moderate hearing loss) without requiring a hearing exam or fitting by a hearing professional. As predicted, OTC hearing aids have begun to hit the shelves of big box retailers and online sites this month. With reduced costs and convenient accessibility, the hope behind this law is that more people with mild hearing losses will seek hearing loss treatment sooner. While the audiology community feels that this is a step forward in helping many 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. That is why Starkey, the top American hearing aid manufacturer, has developed a creative solution that both serves patients seeking hearing treatment under this new law while also supporting hearing care professionals integrate OTC into their practices. This creative solution is called the Start Hearing one, an OTC product that will only be sold in audiology clinics across the nation.

For 55 years, Starkey has been at the forefront of innovation in the hearing aid market. For example, they were one of the first to develop smart phone compatible hearing aids and the first to equip hearing aids with Artificial Intelligence. They are also the first manufacturer to offer programs to help those in need through their philanthropic endeavors. They also continuously encourage and value professional feedback as well as offer top notch training to providers. To say the least, Starkey has a long history of creating products to meet the needs of consumers and professionals alike in an ever-evolving market. That is one reason Starkey is proud to offer their new OTC product, Start Hearing one. Offering this product through hearing providers rather than big box stores or internet retailers is meant to better support those who perceive mild to moderate hearing loss in finding a quality product, made by a credible company, and sold by trustworthy clinicians who know hearing health care. Hearing care professionals want consumers to be informed before purchasing OTC hearing products, and that is why Starkey is offering the Start Hearing one devices in provider offices. This allows consumers to become familiar with hearing providers without the pressure of required services or hearing aids with a large price tag. In return, it gives providers the opportunity to encourage, support and connect with almost anyone seeking hearing help, even those who are just beginning to navigate their hearing journey first with an OTC solution.

Beginning the OTC journey in a professional’s office, rather than in an electronic store or internet retailer, gives consumers extra tools at their discretion should they desire to seek more information regarding hearing health. To be clear, the new law inhibits any vendor from requiring preliminary hearing tests before providing or serving a consumer with OTC hearing aids. This includes the sale of the new Starkey Start Hearing one. However, it is recommended that consumers use caution and discretion when self-diagnosing a loss of any kind. This is because the perception of hearing loss is not always an accurate indicator of the actual hearing loss present. 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. It is no wonder then that studies conclusively show that hearing professionals play a pivotal role in a patients’ success with hearing devices. By visiting a hearing professional (even with OTC product use) pitfalls can be avoided and optimal results can be accomplished.

Improving access to hearing aids will undoubtedly help millions of people who otherwise may not have pursued hearing solutions. Purchasing an OTC product, such as the Starkey Start Hearing one, in a hearing professional’s office will give consumers the opportunity to seek out further services to maximize their success with an OTC product. 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. The providers at Pro Hearing strive to exceed patients’ expectations and desire to set all patients up for success with their devices. In light of this new and exciting ruling, we are not only expanding our services to include service plans for patients who need assistance with their OTC hearing devices but will also be offering the Starkey Start Hearing one as an exclusive OTC solution. 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 hearing or your OTC product, call us today! For more information, please call 405-748-3600 or check out our website here.

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

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