On the FDA’s Over The Counter Hearing Aid Regulation
What does this audiologist think about OTC hearing aids? Many of you have reached out wanting to know.
The Food and Drug Administration has moved to make hearing aids more accessible as Over The Counter (without prescription or medical exam), effective October 2022 for those with mild to moderate hearing losses. I am not against this, at all. I actually believe that it paves the way for more people to get help sooner. Studies have shown that it takes an average of seven years for a person to come to terms with hearing loss and take action on it. My hope is that allowing for some amplification sooner in that time span will allow those experiencing difficulty to get the help they need. We hear with our brain, not our ears, and the sooner we give that speech processing center of the brain the auditory stimulation it needs, the more we can keep decline in speech understanding and processing at bay.
Many of you come to see me because you know I care about your hearing health and I will be honest with you. I am honest in saying that I wish hearing aids alone could help people hear.
Truth be told, hearing well through hearing aids is a service and maintenance game. If hearing aids alone could solve your hearing issues, I would probably be out of business.
Why, you ask?
Hearing aids require programming to your hearing prescription and to be physically fit to the unique ear canal size and shape of your ears. Hearing aid mechanics, exposure to moisture and wax, ear wax build up in your ears, and ALL the maintenance required to continually manage this ever-evolving situation is why I get to know my patients so well.
The next time you wonder if purchasing hearing devices online, over the counter, without service, and/or through a big box store, remember that it’s all about getting them fit, serviced, and maintained. I eventually end up seeing those who have tried any/all the above. You wouldn’t get hip surgery without a surgeon, would you? Your hearing is no different.
With that said, my recommendations to anyone considering hearing aids are:
1-first get a diagnostic hearing evaluation from an audiologist. There will be a charge for this. A great audiologist should be paid for their knowledge and skills. A “free” test might signify that only the sale of a hearing aid holds value.
2-OTC devices may be appropriate for physically and cognitively healthy individuals over age 18 with mild to moderate losses that are symmetrical (one ear is no better than the other).
3-When the above criteria are not met, if there is tinnitus (noise in the ears), if there are other atypical ear/hearing/balance symptoms that are present, and/or if their hearing loss is causing a significant impact on their quality of life, they should seek rehabilitative care from an audiologist.
My job as your audiologist is to meet you wherever you are on your hearing journey, and to help honor your true self through better hearing. That has always been and will always be the goal here at Oracle Hearing Center.
Yasmin Battat, AuD
Doctor of Audiology
Cited: Sarah Curtis, AuD