Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Advocates Applaud New Rules Allowing Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Approximately one-third of Americans age 65 to 74 have hearing loss, and that goes up to nearly half for those older than 75. (Edwardolive/Adobestock)

RICHMOND — Good news for people who need hearing aids but can’t afford to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for a pair: The Food and Drug Administration has just cleared the way for hearing aids to be sold without a prescription or a visit to the audiologist.

Mary Lee Anderson, executive director of Senior Services of Alexandria, said it will be a game-changer for many older Virginians.

“Because in so many cases, people who have hearing issues are misdiagnosed as having dementia or having other health issues,” Anderson explained. “If they would just get a hearing aid, it would make a huge difference in their lives.”

The Biden administration predicts it could save people up to $3,000 per pair. The less-expensive hearing aids could hit pharmacy shelves as early as October.

Anderson encouraged people to contact local agencies such as the Northern Virginia Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Fairfax, which does free hearing evaluations, lets people try different models, and connects them with subsidy programs.

“Depending on what is causing the hearing loss, people are going to need a different type of hearing aid,” Anderson pointed out. “If they’re just going to walk into the pharmacy and pick up whatever is cheapest, it may not be what is best for them.”

Anderson added the advent of less-expensive, more accessible hearing aids will help combat the problem of social isolation, because right now, many people who need a hearing aid but cannot afford one often steer clear of crowded, loud social settings where their hearing loss might present a problem.

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