Know before you buy: Hearing aids are now ready over the counter

OTC hearing aids are set to be available at select Hy-Vee locations this week.
OTC hearing aids are set to be available at select Hy-Vee locations this week.(WMTV/Michelle Baik)
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 6:28 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Starting Monday, millions of Americans with hearing loss can buy hearing aids over the counter.

The new rule from the Food & Drug Administration means consumers won’t need exams or prescriptions, and it could save them a lot of money. But before they purchase, experts have some recommendations and reminders.

Over-the-counter hearing aids are geared for people with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. However, SSM Health Audiologist Sarah Childress, AuD, said it’s tricky for people to measure their own hearing.

“We want to make sure that people don’t overamplify themselves and create more hearing loss,” she said. “That is a really big concern of ours right now.”

Among retailers like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Best Buy, which have announced plans to sell over-the-counter hearing aids, Hy-Vee is planning an initial rollout of products this week at roughly 30 locations.

One location getting ready to receive shipment is the Hy-Vee in Madison on Whitney Way.

“It’s providing that one-stop shop,” Christina Gayman, the grocery chain’s assistant vice president of communications, said. “By offering these low-cost, over-the-counter hearing aids, it provides us to make healthcare more accessible for people.”

Hearing aids on display at the Whitney Way location start at $130 and go up to about $1,000.

According to Dr. Childress, hearing aids have typically cost between $2,000 and $6,000.

She says about 500,000 Wisconsin residents suffer from hearing loss. While it’s unclear how many of them need hearing aids, she says the over-the-counter options will be important tools for those in rural areas, as some may be unable to visit clinics out of town.

Dr. Childress recommends a professional hearing evaluation before any decision.

“There are some tricky things that could be involved as well because people can’t see in their own ear, so we want to make sure that their ear canals are free of wax or other debris,” she said, pointing out professionals can also find potential concerns in the ear.

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