“The leading factor that would influence adults’ purchasing decisions on an OTC hearing aid would be a recommendation from a medical professional: 42% report that this would play the largest role in product selection, with cost being a distant second (18%).”
“About 40% of dementia cases, we believe, result from so-called modifiable risk factors—things like diet, physical activity levels, and, prominently, hearing.”
In October 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed guidelines for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.
As a primary care physician, you know that patients look for your guidance in managing their overall health and wellness. Although OTC hearing aids are appropriate for individuals with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, they are not appropriate for those with greater degrees of hearing loss or certain medical conditions. Purchasing OTC hearing aids will not require a formal hearing evaluation by an audiologist, so, in many cases, patients will be tasked with trying to self-diagnose their levels of hearing. This can be difficult to do accurately. Licensed audiologists—who will have either a master’s degree or a doctorate and 1,800+ hours of clinical training—are the experts for assessing each patient’s hearing loss needs.
Prescription hearing aids range greatly in cost, from approximately $1,500 to $7,000 per pair. Costs vary due to
Although access to hearing aids is important for those with hearing loss, the implementation of OTC hearing aids should not lead to the false assumption that medical professionals, such as audiologists, are not extremely important to hearing health care.
As a primary care physician, you can encourage patients to seek a hearing assessment by an audiologist. Additionally, an easily accessible hearing screening tool allows physician offices to provide in-office screenings utilizing a smart device and a pair of headphones called hearWHO.5 This screening tool is an easy and quick option (screening takes about 3 minutes) that anyone can utilize to screen for hearing loss. A failed hearing screening should prompt a referral to an audiologist for a comprehensive audiological evaluation.
The popularity of direct-to-consumer and Internet sales have made it easier for consumers to access potentially useful medical treatment. For the safety of individuals seeking hearing treatment—including OTC hearing aids—please encourage them to seek a hearing evaluation by an audiologist for appropriate guidance and hearing health care.
1 YouGov & the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. (2021). Attitudes and actions towards hearing health: Summary report of U.S. adults ages 18+. https://www.asha.org/siteassets/bhsm/2021/asha-bhsm-2021-report.pdf
2 Gray, J. D. (Host). (2021, September 30). Research sheds light on the hearing loss–cognition link [Audio podcast episode]. In ASHA Voices. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/2021-0930-podcast-research-symposium-2021/full/
3 Blackwell, D. L., Lucas J. W., & Clarke, T. C. (2014, February). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012 [PDF]. Vital and Health Statistics, 10(260), 1–118. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_260.pdf
4 National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. (2021, March 25). Quick statistics about hearing. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
5 World Health Organization. (2022, January 14). hearWHO: Check your hearing. https://www.who.int/health-topics/hearing-loss/hearwho
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2020). Preventing falls [Audiology Information Series]. https://www.asha.org/siteassets/ais/ais-preventing-falls.pdf
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2021). Comorbidities and hearing loss [Audiology Information Series]. https://www.asha.org/siteassets/ais/ais-comorbidities-and-hearing-loss.pdf
Hearing Aid Project. (n.d.). Hearing aid resources. https://hearingaiddonations.org/resources/