WASHINGTON — Starting Monday, American adults with mild to moderate hearing loss can buy hearing aids over-the-counter — potentially saving themselves thousands of dollars.
It's part of a long-awaited final rule issued in August by the Food and Drug Administration that was expected to lower the cost of hearing aids and increase competition.
The devices, which the government estimates nearly 30 million Americans could benefit from, can traditionally cost as much as $5,000, including fitting. Insurance coverage also poses a frequent obstacle, with Medicare patients paying the full cost for hearing aids.
Major retailers are already selling the devices, including Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart. Brands and prices vary, but hearing aids offered by the chains range from about $200 to $3,000. In-person availability also varies: Some retailers offer the devices in certain locations and others only plan to offer them online for now.
The rule change followed years of pressure by experts and advocates, plus a 2017 law instructing the FDA to lay out a plan. While in-ear "sound amplification" devices have long been available without a prescription, U.S. regulations barred them from being marketed as hearing aids.
“Today’s action by the FDA represents a significant milestone in making hearing aids more cost-effective and accessible," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, said in an earlier statement announcing the rule change.
Hearing aids for minors and people with severe hearing loss remain prescription only.
Where can you buy OTC hearing aids?
Over-the-counter hearing aids are available starting Monday at major retailers including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS. Here's a look at their plans and price points.
- Walmart says its new OTC hearing aids range from about $200 to $1,000 per pair. The devices are available online and at Walmart Vision Centers in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, plus 474 Sam's Club Hearing Aid Centers.
- Walgreens says it is now selling OTC hearing aids online and at stores nationwide. It currently offers one model for about $800 per pair.
- CVS is selling three OTC hearing models ranging from about $200 to $800. Each model is currently only available on CVS.com. According to the White House, CVS plans to offer the devices in some stores starting next month.
- Best Buy is offering several OTC hearing aids and similar products online ranging from $200 to $3,000 per pair. The chain says the products will also be available in nearly 300 stores by the end of October. In a news release, it encouraged customers to take its online hearing assessment when choosing a device.