“Starting this week, we’re making hearing aids available over the counter, so people don’t have to pay for expensive visits to specialists,” President Joe Biden said on Twitter.
In August, the FDA issued a final ruling to create a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. Under the ruling, people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss can forgo a medical exam, prescription or fitting adjustment by an audiologist. Government officials think the move could lower the cost of a pair of the devices by $3,000 on average.
The Biden administration said the over-the-counter hearing aids provided significant financial breathing room for the nearly 30 million Americans with hearing loss, about a third of them under the age of 60.
Over-the-counter hearing aid launches announced today include:
- Walgreens today started selling hearing aids in-store and online for $799 a pair; comparable models sold by specialists range from $2,000 to $8,000 a pair.
- CVS today started selling over-the-counter hearing devices on CVS.com, with devices coming to CVS Pharmacy locations next month.
- Starting today, Walmart will offer an assortment of over-the-counter hearing devices on Walmart.com, SamsClub.com, and in over 1,000 Vision Centers in Walmart stores across Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas — plus 474 Sam’s Club Hearing Aid Center locations. Over-the-counter hearing aid prices range from $199 to $999 per pair. Walmart said comparable prescription hearing devices cost $4,400 to $5,500 per pair.
- Starting this week, Best Buy will offer nearly 20 different hearing devices online. By the end of the month, it will offer over-the-counter hearing devices in nearly 300 stores across the country, with the devices selling at prices between $200 and $3,000.
- Hy-Vee this week will start retailing over-the-counter hearing devices online and in 34 locations across Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Hy-Vee plans to expand to 100 locations by the end of the year. The four models that Hy-Vee is offering range in price from $499.99 to $999.99.
More companies are starting to sell the devices. For example, Sony Electronics last week announced the launch of its first over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids for the U.S. market. Sony developed unique products in partnership with hearing aid technology developer WS Audiology.