Over-the-counter hearing aids available starting Oct. 17

Next week, hearing aids will be available for purchase without a prescription for the first time in the United States. Dr. Cliff Hume, an otolaryngologist with UW Medicine, says these aids are designed for people with untreated, mild challenges with their hearing.

“If you look at the American population, there are probably 40 to 50 million people with hearing loss, and only about a fifth of those use hearing aids,” he said.

Several major retailers have announced they will offer over-the-counter hearing aids, at a range of $199-$799 per pair.  According to Healthline, a set of more intensive, prescription hearing aids can range from $900 to $6,000 or more.

Over-the-counter hearing aids could provide a steppingstone to clinical care for people who find that store-bought aids don’t solve their untreated hearing difficulties, Hume said.

“We know that hearing loss affects things like cognitive decline, ability to interact socially, performance at work, depression — things that impact your health on a daily basis. Not only yourself, but also your family.”

The Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling in August to allow the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids starting Oct. 17. This action finalized congressional legislation from 2017 that called for broader availability of the devices.

Access more information on over-the-counter hearing aids from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with answers to common questions about over-the-counter hearing aids.

UW Medicine