Hearing aids are complicated little things. Not only are they technologically complex, but the way they are perceived by the healthcare industry is not a simple thing to understand. Until October 2022 you could not walk into a store and purchase a pair of hearing aids off the shelf like you would a bottle of aspirin or a pair of reading glasses. However, that is changing and new regulations could help millions of people.
OTC Hearing Aids: More Accessibility
One of the biggest obstacles for those living with hearing loss is the inaccessibility of hearing aids.
While there are easier models like Audicus, which allow you to shop for hearing aids online in the privacy of your home, many places that sell hearing aids require you to go to the store with your hearing test and get fitted in person.
While this may seem like a good thing—you can speak with an expert, you can ensure you have the best fit—it can be somewhat of an arduous process. The prospect of shopping for hearing aids in public can also deter many people, as wearing hearing aids is still somewhat stigmatized in modern society.
OTC Hearing Aids: Normalizing Hearing Loss
Introducing OTC hearing aids to the market is a big step toward normalizing hearing loss. Although hearing loss is one of the most common afflictions in the US and around the world, hearing loss is not as acceptable and normalized as a similar disability, like bad eyesight.
Making hearing aids easily and widely available would have great effects on combating the negative stigma around hearing aids. Hearing aids should be seen as assistive pieces, like eyeglasses.
Increase Innovation and Decrease Cost with OTC Hearing Aids
Another benefit to introducing OTC hearing aids is the expansion of the hearing aid market and industry. If hearing aids are easier to purchase, there is a bigger market for them and more technology companies produce hearing aids.
Additionally, OTC may fuel the fires of innovation and inspire companies to come up with novel approaches to managing hearing loss. More competition could also decrease the cost of hearing aids.
There are millions of people with mild to moderate hearing loss that aren’t getting the help they need because there are obstacles to buying hearing aids. Allowing the sale of OTC hearing aids may result in a huge boom in the hearing aid population and the hearing aid industry.
By: Elena McPhillips
Updated: Madeline Foster (2022)