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Low-cost hearing aids coming to pharmacies

Written by Diane Archer

There’s some good news for people struggling to afford hearing aids. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a guidance document that permits the sale of hearing aids without a prescription. Experts predict that, soon, buying low-cost hearing aids at the pharmacy over the counter should become the norm, much like buying reading glasses.

Today, 30 million people in the U.S., mostly older adults, experience hearing loss. Hearing aids typically cost close to $5,000 a pair, $2,300 apiece on average, according to the White House blog. And, because Medicare does not cover hearing aids, most people have to pay the full cost of hearing aids if they want them.

Fortunately, Medicaid covers hearing aids in 34 states and territories, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Unfortunately, more than 80 percent of people who would benefit from hearing aids today do not have them because of their cost and the cost of getting a medical evaluation.

As a result of the FDA’s new guidance, you will no longer need to get examined before you can get a hearing aid. While the FDA regulation that people get a medical evaluation or sign a waiver in order to get a hearing aid remains in place, the FDA has said that it will not enforce the requirement.

Once hearing aids can be bought without a prescription, many new manufacturers should surface and the price of hearing aids should come down significantly. Today, there is very little competition in the marketplace. Only six companies–one U.S. and five foreign–sell hearing aids in the United States.

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