Local medical personnel reflect on OTC hearing aids

FDA approved regulation for non-prescription hearing aids in August, could be sold as early as October

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Beginning this fall, residents with mild to moderate hearing loss will soon be able to purchase hearing aids over the counter at their local pharmacy.

The FDA recently approved over-the-counter hearing aids to soon be sold to Americans without the need of a prescription, medical exam or fitting.

Consumers can now possibly save thousands when purchasing them, but local experts warn that choosing savings over sound may come at a different cost.

CBS News reports that some Americans have to pay more than $5,000 for hearing aids, and not all insurance policies provide coverage.

Jake Standefer of Hixson’s Access Family Pharmacy says the strongest achievement of the new regulation is availability.

“The whole goal of approving these OTC hearing aids is to make it more accessible,” Standefer said. “That way, patients have more options to get the hearing aids — hopefully that will reduce the price. And then, obviously, not need a medical exam or see an audiologist for hearing aids — specifically the OTC ones with mild to moderate hearing loss.”

Dr. Kirsten Panzarella of Johnson Audiology says those with minor, perceived symptoms are the ones who benefit the greatest.

However, she believes speaking with a professional before making any purchase is still the best course of action.

“For individuals that might not be able to afford traditional, prescribed hearing aids or for somebody who might be in more of a rural area [and] not necessarily have access to a professional [or] an audiologist and can order these online — I can definitely see the benefit there,” Panzarella said.

For those with severe hearing loss or tinnitus, Standefer says the OTC hearing aids are not a suitable substitute and a visit to an audiologist would still be recommended.

But both he and Panzarella believe that once available, over-the-counter hearing aids will benefit many.

“It’s always great to get a hearing test done,” Standefer said. “So even if you’re wanting to get something that’s over the counter, it would be a good idea to get a hearing test done just to see what level of hearing loss you’ve got.”

“I think it could be very similar to how readers’ glasses are on every corner and every store — things like that,” Panzarella said. “That doesn’t take away from the need for a professional.”

Panzarella says seeing a professional also reduces the risk of leaving your ears under or overamplified, but believes the OTC hearing aids could act as a good “stepping stone” into later receiving prescribed equipment.

She also believes the over-the-counter hearing aids can provide greater awareness of hearing issues and audiology, itself.

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