There aren’t many options for people who’ve experienced hearing loss. Either you fork over thousands of dollars for an audiologist to fit you for a hearing aid, or you lose the ability to communicate.
The first option is not realistic for many. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that about 15 percent of Americans report hearing trouble, while only one in five who could benefit from a hearing aid use one. The cost is simply too high.
Losing the ability to communicate can shatter a person’s life. It can lead to depression and social isolation while contributing to the onset of dementia.
But last week, the FDA made a big announcement: over-the-counter hearing aids, previously unavailable, are coming.
They will be a fraction of the cost of current hearing aids and will not require professional fittings or adjustments.
This development will allow millions who’ve been unable to hear the sounds they enjoy potentially regain lost parts of their lives.
A vote from congress in 2017 set a 2020 deadline for the FDA to establish a category of safe, effective, and affordable OTC hearing aids. The pandemic delayed the project, but in July, the President set a November deadline that the FDA has met.
So far, two approved devices – one from audio company Bose and another from Lexie Hearing – are available in the $800 to $850 range. It might not seem that cheap, but hearing aids and audiologist fittings run from $2,000 to $8,000.
There is one catch, however: you’ll need a smartphone. The hearing devices rely on smartphone apps to help with volume and frequency adjustments to fit individual hearing deficiencies.
In any event, this announcement is likely to bring hearing aids into a realm of affordability for tens of millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss.