Health

Grab a Hearing Aid at the Pharmacy, Will You?

It's time affordable tech is available to all

“Talk low and slow.” That request sound familiar?

More than 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The condition is most often age-related, and it takes just the right tone at just the right pace for someone with hearing loss to understand another person’s words — even with hearing aids.

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Imagine the frustration, then, for those going without.

Four out of five Americans with hearing loss never get assistance, the FDA says. They’re either too stubborn to get their hearing checked, or they can’t afford the few available options. As more people in our society age — this is not OK. Even mild hearing loss affects people dramatically; they withdraw and suffer from embarrassment and depression more often. An increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is also linked to hearing loss.

[lz_bulleted_list title=“Hear This: More Options Needed” source=“http://www.fda.gov”]Roughly 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every single day.|Over 25% of Americans aged 60-69 have hearing loss.|Over 50% of Americans aged 70-79 have hearing loss.|Over 75% of Americans aged 80+ have hearing loss.[/lz_bulleted_list]

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The ability to hear well is vital to one’s quality of life. Knowing this, the AARP and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) support newly revised FDA guidelines on hearing aids. The organizations hope an inexpensive, over-the-counter product can be developed. FDA officials last week said that more affordable hearing aids appear closer to reality than ever.

“Consumers can buy simple corrective lenses — reading glasses — over the counter, but the same is not true for hearing aids,” said FDA officials in a media release. “And while hearing aids do not restore perfect hearing, allowing [the] over-the-counter sale would facilitate the availability of more innovative, lower-cost products, enabling millions of people who are negatively impacted by hearing loss to better their daily lives.”

The hearing aids currently on the market come from only six manufacturers worldwide. The average cost is about $2,300 per single hearing aid.

Related: Will Hearing Aids Ever Get (Gasp!) Sexy? 

The hope is that any new over-the-counter product brings costs down into the hundreds instead of thousands of dollars.

The FDA also said it does not intend to enforce the requirement that American adults get a medical evaluation before obtaining most hearing aids. The vast majority of people waive this already — and right now, audiological services are bundled into the overall price of a hearing aid.

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