ROCKVILLE, Md. (DC News Now) — After the FDA moved to allow millions of Americans with some hearing loss to purchase hearing aids over the counter, the White House touted potentially thousands of dollars in savings.
However, exactly how much money people could save is not immediately clear as interest from hearing aid manufacturers to enter the over-the-counter market is unknown.
A statement from President Joe Biden said Americans impacted by the change could save nearly $3,000 after the measure takes effect in two months, which also waives the requirement for people with mild to moderate hearing loss to first seek a medical exam before buying a hearing aid.
Medicaid’s basic plan still does not cover the cost of hearing aids, and while the FDA guidance would alleviate costs for medical consultations for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, the cost to purchase the devices remains on consumer shoulders.
It is unknown if costs for over-the-counter hearing aids will come down, and add up to thousands in savings because it’s unknown how many manufacturers may enter the market and drive down costs due to competition.
The new federal guidance was applauded by advocates of the changes.
“It’s a big deal because this opens up a new pathway to care,” said Barbara Kelly, Executive Director of The Hearing Loss Association of America which is based in Rockville.
While listening devices already are available without an exam, available at large retailers like CVS and Walmart, the move by the FDA could expand options for consumers in the over-the-counter market.
On the existing over-the-counter supply, Kelley said some devices “will probably cross over [into the market], and they might not look like traditional hearing aids,” adding products may look like “ear buds that you use with a smart phone,” to raise the volume of the person’s voice.
The FDA’s change does not apply to people with more serious hearing loss; therefore, these Americans still will need a medical exam before getting outfitted for a hearing aid.
When it comes to returns for hearing aids purchased over the counter, the FDA stopped short; however, the agency said manufacturers must label their return policies.