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OTC Hearing Aid Bill Passes, But When Can You Expect Them?

Geoffrey Cooling

More Importantly, What Can You Expect From Them?

The US Senate passed H.R. 2430, the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 by a vote of 94-1, on August 3, the bill includes the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which provides for the federal regulation of over-the-counter hearing aids for adults with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The bill will be put forward for the President to sign and then it will become the law of the land. So, once the law of the land has changed, will you be able to go to the store to buy one? The answer is no, the FDA now has to set out regulations for OTC hearing aids and it has up to three years to do so. Although no one expects it to be that long. 

OTC Hearing Aids Don't Exist

The other thing is that Over The Counter hearing aids don't actually exist as a product line. Oh yes, there are plenty of PSAPs and there are even a few hearing aids sold online, but they are a whole different kettle of fish. OTC hearing aids are a brand new concept, in fact, they are a concept that there are no guidelines for so far. Once the FDA has finished its work though, I would expect to see many of them hit the market pretty quickly. At present, you can buy devices like Eargo, which I discussed in Eargo, Do They Live Up To The Hype? and iHear. I have also spoken aboutonline hearing aids sales and what you need to think about in Buying Hearing Aids Online? Here is What You Need To Know

Eargo in charger

What Can You Expect From OTC Hearing Aids?

We don't really know yet, I would expect that they will be a self fit hearing device that you can also fine tune in some way. I would imagine the fitting and fine tuning software will be smartphone and possibly PC based. Again for prices, we have no idea until they begin to hit the market. The same goes with how well they will deliver. What we do know is that there are plenty of people on the sidelines waiting to deliver them to what they think will be a growing market. Many people have been quoting a particular study pretty loosley to say that OTC hearing aids have proven as good as traditional hearing aids. That isn't quite true, I discussed the study in the article New Study Says Over The Counter Hearing Aids as Good as Professionally Fitted. The study didn't quite prove what people are saying it did. Give the article a read and make up your own mind. 

Suitable For All?

I have spoken about this before, I think that OTC hearing aids, like self fitting hearing aids will be suitable for some. But, I am not sure they will be suitable for all. There will need to be some understanding of technology to get on with them. The other thing is that many people need ongoing care with hearing aids, their success depends on it. What ongoing support will be available with OTC, in fact what if any support will be available? These are all questions that remain to be answered.

I look forward to seeing how this goes, will traditional manufacturers enter the fray? Will hearing healthcare providers offer the devices? Will hearing healthcare providers offer differing devices with similar care packages? Hell what will the care packages be with OTC hearing aids? 

Break Downs & Warranty

At the moment when a hearing aid breaks down under warranty, you come back to us and we handle the repair or the replacement with no cost to you. With OTC or online sales, that may not be the case, it could be that you will need to pay post and packing. If we offer a similarly priced product, with no frills and little support, how would you feel if we charged you for a warranty repair for post and packing? I don't really see that happening, but I had to ask it. 

No matter what happens, who enters the fray and who reacts to what, we will keep you informed. I for one am really interested in what comes on the market, how it is delivered and what the people (that's you) do with it. 

You can read a little more about what we think of Over The Counter Hearing Aids at Over The Counter Hearing Aids - Are Over The Counter Hearing Aids The Answer, What Can The Consumer Expect?

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