Consumer Alert: All you need to know about OTC Hearing Aids

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Many of you watching us right now may have the volume cranked up on your television.  That’s because you’re one of the 48 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss.  So the FDA’s decision to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter could be life-changing.  Over-the-counter hearing aids could hit store shelves as early as October.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 25 percent of people over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss and half of all folks over the age of 74.

My father is 86, and when I told him we were getting him new hearing aids, he said, “Woo Hoo!” eliciting laughter from my children.  My dad is a jokester.  But hearing loss is no laughing matter.  As I shared with you during our series of stories on senior caregiving, my husband and I care for dad in our home.

And like so many, Dad has trouble hearing conversations on the phone, in person, and certainly in crowded settings.  Dad has had three sets of hearing aids, all of which cost more than $1,500.
And Medicare doesn’t cover them.  But Dad’s hearing aids were cheap compared to most.  And the folks at Lifespan of Rochester told me the expense makes hearing aids out of reach for so many

“Only about 20 percent of Americans who have hearing loss actually have a hearing aid, and a large part of that has been historically because of the cost, upwards of $5,000,” said Mary Rose McBride, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Lifespan of Rochester. “It’s great news for people who have mild to moderate hearing loss, especially older adults who have listened to loud music all their lives or been in jobs where their hearing has been affected.  These type of hearing aids now being purchased over the counter can really help people again with that mild to moderate hearing loss.  Anybody that has severe hearing loss these probably aren’t the hearing aids for them.”

In addition to those with severe hearing loss, According to the online magazine, Healthy Hearing, if you have any of these conditions, you should consider a prescription hearing aid instead of an over-the-counter one.

  • You have hearing loss on just one side
  • You have recent, sudden hearing loss
  • You have ringing, roaring or beeping in your ears.
  • You’ve taken medication, chemotherapy or radiation that caused your hearing loss.
  • Your ears constantly hurt
  • You’re often dizzy.

Over-the-counter hearing aids should be on store shelves by October, and Tuesday Best Buy announced it will carry a full array of options. The big question? How much will they cost?
Analysts’ best estimate is less than $2,000.  And of course, competition should bring prices down further.

This is important.  Have your hearing checked by an audiologist first? The appointment is covered by Medicare.

Then consider going to lifespan for their hearing loss demonstration where you can see available equipment and make the best choice for you.  Lifespan doesn’t have a hearing demonstration scheduled for August, but there is one scheduled on September 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Lifespan office located at 1900 S. Clinton Avenue, Rochester 14618. You don’t need to make an appointment to attend.

Also, the Rochester chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America is another great resource. Click here for more information.