The new (2022) Over The Counter (OTC) category for hearing aids allowed recently by the FDA is intended to increase accessibility and affordability of hearing devices for those with perceived hearing problems.
Making hearing devices more affordable and accessible is a good idea but the scope of this recent FDA solution is limited. To have focused solely on the hearing device and ignore the rest of the rehabilitative care that would maximize the patient’s success was short-sighted. The intention was to address those persons who perceive a “mild or moderate” amount of hearing loss and who only need a little bit of hearing improvement from time to time. Similar to the need for reading glasses when one notices problems reading fine print. Many people rely on the OTC glasses market in order to reduce the cost of prescription glasses until such time as they need more than what the OTC/store-bought glasses can provide.
This same thinking holds true for the OTC hearing device market. Just have something available that can help someone hear better until they need a prescription for something that will address the hearing loss more effectively.
Adults make personal, healthcare decisions for themselves every day. When someone has a headache, they may take an OTC medication line Tylenol or Advil and certainly not feel the need to contact their primary care physician to make this decision. If the headaches increase in severity and cannot be controlled by the OTC products, then they will seek more in-depth care.
The same will hold true for OTC hearing devices. If a person purchases one of these and they make it work for them and they hear better, then that is the goal. Once the devices stop being as effective, then they can investigate more in-depth hearing care.
What we have determined at Potomac Audiology is that we want people to hear better and to hear better as early as possible once they notice a problem. As Helen Keller said, “hearing connects us to people” and we need those connections in most areas of our lives. If an OTC hearing device can do that, then we support that. If someone purchases an OTC device and wants our professional care to maximize its function and benefit, then we will charge for our services to help that person hear. Once the OTC devices are no longer sufficient to handle the hearing loss, then that person can see us for prescription devices that will be evaluated in the ear and set with real-ear measures that can tell us how the hearing devices are working real time. And we will provide other individual care needed by the patient – not all hearing losses are the same.
Bottom line: we know good hearing is a vital part of good health. If you suspect you have a hearing problem because you miss parts of conversations occasionally and you need the television or computer volume increased at times, then contact us to get a hearing test and then we can help guide you through OTC or prescription hearing devices.
If you decide to purchase a hearing device online or in a store, carefully read the instructions and contact the customer service for the device if you have any problems. Good hearing = good health. If you have a problem hearing, take advantage now of the options available to you!