WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration today announced the creation of a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids – a move that is expected to lower costs for many consumers and help those with mild to moderate hearing loss. AARP fought for the bipartisan law, written by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), that required the FDA to issue these regulations. About 40 million older adults experience hearing loss, yet just 20% of those affected use a hearing aid.
“Giving people with mild to moderate hearing loss access to affordable hearing aids is an important step to ensure their health and quality of life,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. “For many Americans, the high cost of prescription hearing aids puts them out of reach, increasing their risk of isolation, depression and other health issues. Today’s rule could help millions.”
Under the new rule, companies will be able to market and sell OTC hearing aids without a prescription directly to consumers or at retail outlets nationwide. These devices are intended for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. They allow users to tune and program the earpiece themselves using a phone app or other device. People with severe to profound hearing loss are still recommended to get prescription devices which can be more accurately tuned to the individual’s needs by a professional. OTC hearing aids currently retail for about $800 per ear, while prescription devices average $2,300 per ear and premium models cost as much as $6,000.
In a comment letter to FDA earlier this year, AARP noted: “A person’s ability to hear greatly affects their overall well-being including how they interact with other people, loved ones, and the environment around them…Left untreated, hearing loss can negatively affect older people’s quality of life by preventing them from engaging with others, leading to social isolation and limiting ability to work.”
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.