Over-the-counter hearing aids now available and they're less expensive

Monday is historic in that it's the first day people could actually buy, hearing aids over-the-counter like one buys aspirin. The massive new level of competition will save consumers billions and Uncle Sam says it's all good to go.

On average, people with noticeable hearing loss wait seven years to seek help if ever at all. Now, potential patients and many hearing experts are hoping newer technologies, cheaper prices and ease of purchase will perk up their ears and lives.

Senior Center receptionist Sylvia Schmid has great insurance that will cover her new, top of the line, $5,000 hearing aids. But she is rare. "Every day, I hear people commenting about or lamenting, I should say about their loss of hearing," said Schmid. 20% of all Americans have some degree of hearing loss, including nearly 30% of those over age 60 and 50% over age 75.

But, traditional hearing aids can cost as much as $5,000 per ear, not including other up-front costs, such as doctor visits. They must be labeled on the box over-the-counter hearing aids and these mean they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety and efficacy. But people should look at that box and make sure there's a return policy," said Hearing Loss Association Of America Executive Director Barbara Kelley.

With in-store and online availability, it's mostly do-it-yourself with help from the sellers. If there's no trial period or good warranty, don't buy them.

Otherwise, they're good to go. "Yes, consumers can do this online successfully," said Catherine Roberts of Consumer Reports.

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Consumer Reports Catherine Roberts says for most people, the apps and interfaces that over-the-counter provide for fit and control, are sufficient. "They have been able to show that people can do that and get a for of their hearing aids that is at least as good as the outcome you could get with the audiologist," said Ms. Roberts.

Since major retailers such as Walmart. Walgreens, CVS or Best Buy can be trusted, buying in-person is a good option. "They are ranging from kind of the $2,000 range all the way up to, they can get up to the kind of $2,000 or more," said Roberts.

If you buy online, stick with the same trusted names. But, also consider buying direct from manufacturers or retailers you can check out, such as Eargo, Lexie, Lively and others. "I had committed to an expensive pair and then rethought my position. I'm probably gonna let the market shake out a bit and decide where it's gonna go," said Musician Steve Rosch.

The Hearing Loss Association of America has put together a handy tip sheet on shopping for and buying over-the-counter hearing aids: hearingloss.org/hearing-help/technology/otc-hearing-devices/otc-hearing-aids/