This Popular Retail Chain Will Let You Buy OTC Hearing Aids, Starting This Fall
The FDA created a new regulatory category that finally allows the sale.
Approximately 30 million people in the U.S. have hearing loss, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates, and that can have a number of detrimental effects on quality of life. Thankfully, hearing aids are a convenient and effective tool—but not everyone has access to them. In fact, the FDA estimates that only one-fifth of people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually seek professional help. That could quickly change, as one popular retailer will soon let you buy affordable hearing aids over the counter. Read on to find out where you'll be able to pick up these essential medical devices this fall.
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The FDA recently moved to make hearing aids cheaper and more accessible.
On Aug. 16, the FDA issued a "final rule" that established a regulatory category for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. As a result, those suffering from hearing loss will be able to purchase hearing aids on their own, without having to go through a medical exam, get a prescription, and then have a fitting performed by an audiologist, the agency said in the press release. The action is also intended to reduce the cost of these devices, which are typically expensive, creating a barrier to care.
The FDA was required to implement a category for OTC hearing aids thanks to bipartisan legislation passed by congress in 2017. However, it was not fully introduced until now, and follows President Joe Biden's Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which set a 120-day deadline for the FDA to allow the sale of OTC hearing aids.
"Hearing loss is a critical public health issue that affects the ability of millions of Americans to effectively communicate in their daily social interactions," FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD, said in the press release. "Establishing this new regulatory category will allow people with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss to have convenient access to an array of safe, effective and affordable hearing aids from their neighborhood store or online."
One popular retailer will begin sales in the fall.
According to the press release, OTC hearing aids are expected to be sold in retail stores, drugstores, and online by mid-October, as the FDA rule formally takes effect on Oct. 17.
The popular electronics retailer Best Buy will be a go-to destination for these devices, the company said in an Aug. 17 press release. An "in-store experience" will be offered at 300 of Best Buy's nearly 1,000 stores, including an "expanded collection of hearing devices."
"Our expansion of the hearing collection and new store experience will let customers easily find a hearing loss solution from brands they trust," Frank Bedo, category officer at Best Buy, said in the press release. "Our customers come to us for quality tech products and expertise, and this fall we'll be able to better help them find the right solutions specific to their needs."
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Best Buy has sold hearing solutions in the past.
While the introduction of OTC hearing aids is beneficial for many people with hearing loss, Best Buy has already been selling other devices aimed at helping those with hearing loss. According to the press release, the company sells personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), self-fitting hearing devices, TV amplifiers, and hearing protection devices, among others.
Those younger than 18 or with severe hearing loss will still be required to obtain a prescription for a hearing aid, but for everyone else, Best Buy intends to offer a wide selection. The company will be selling hearing aids from Lexie Hearing, Nuheara, Jabra Enhance Plus, Lucid Hearing fio and ENGAGE, and Eargo 6, as well as options from other "trusted brands in the space."
To pay for the devices, CNBC reported that customers will be able to use health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Best Buy further recommends that you check your insurance coverage ahead of time.
You can use an online tool to identify hearing loss.
Retailers will also be able to sell OTC hearing devices online, but Best Buy is taking things a step further. Via a partnership with hearX, Best Buy now offers an online hearing assessment tool. This can help you determine your level of hearing loss and select an appropriate device when shopping online.
If you prefer to shop for a hearing aid in-store, you can scan a QR code at participating locations to access the hearing assessment tool and receive assistance from a Best Buy associate.