Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Coming this Fall

A change proposed by the FDA last year is taking effect this fall and will be bringing hearing aids to more consumers by allowing them to be sold over-the-counter. This eliminates the need for medical exams and fittings that can make up two-thirds of the total cost of a prescription hearing aid. The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults suffer from hearing loss in our country, but many of these individuals do not use a hearing aid. Experts and the federal regulators behind this change hope that this will drive down prices and spur innovation when it comes to hearing aids and the technology they use.

This move by the FDA is aimed at making hearing aids more widely available without the added cost burden on the consumer of medical exams and fittings. These added expenses can make up two-thirds of the total cost of hearing aids, a cost that can be as high as $5000 for some individuals. Industry experts hope this move will bring down the cost of hearing aids for all consumers as well as removing a barrier to entry that currently exists in the requirement to see a specialist before receiving a hearing aid. 

While the availability of over-the-counter hearing aids can potentially diminish the role of audiologists and other specialists in diagnosing and treating hearing loss with prescription hearing aids, we must not forget the important role these specialists play in diagnosing, researching, and treating hearing loss and other related issues like processing disorders, dizziness, and trouble balancing. We reached out to Dr. Heather Dickey, a clinical audiologist at Roanoke Valley Speech and Hearing Center(RVSHC), for her thoughts on the bill and the changes it will bring.

It’s important to remember that ‘hearing’ is more involved than just the ear and potentially putting a hearing aid in the ear. The brain plays a huge role in processing the information it receives from the ear (both ‘hearing’ and balance signals). Central Auditory Processing evaluations are something that we offer here, and it is important for children and adults who have trouble hearing in noise, paying attention to auditory information, difficulty understanding speech/confusing different speech sounds and other difficulties to be evaluated.” 

This change will not eliminate the need for specialists like Dr. Heather Dickey, but it will force them to change and adapt their business. “We are also working to revise our pricing so that the cost of the hearing aids is just for the hearing aids themselves, not the hearing aids and services “bundled” together.” says Dr. Heather Dickey from RVSHC. “This will lower the price of hearing aids and give patients more transparency in what exactly they are paying for, and allow them control over what services they want.”

Hearing loss is not always preventable, but it can be in some cases. That’s why you will find free disposable foam ear plugs being given out at every 5 Points Music Sanctuary event. We also sell high fidelity reusable ear plugs and offer free high quality  hearing protection for our youngest guests. We want all of our guests to feel confident in their level of hearing protection so that they can continue to enjoy live music and join 5 Points for more events over the coming years.

Baby Banz Hear-No-Blare Earmuffs

So, if you suffer from hearing loss, issues with balance,  processing disorders, or simply just want to see how your hearing has held up over the years, please get in touch with your local hearing specialist to set up a hearing screening or test. RVSHC will be bringing their Mobile Hearing Test Unit to 5 Points Music Sanctuary shows this fall. This will give our guests the opportunity to get a free hearing screening while attending one of our many great events. Stay tuned for more information on future appearances from the RVSHC Mobile Hearing Test Unit.

John Kadlecik, guitarist for Melvin Seals and JGB, gives a thumbs up after getting his hearing screening at a 5 Points Outdoors event.