CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio seniors like Richard Masters are encouraged by the new FDA rule allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids without a prescription, but said there are things consumers need to keep in mind before they buy.
Masters told News 5 he's relied on hearing aids for more than a decade, and believes the price break created by over-the-counter hearing aids will help thousands of local consumers to now be able to afford the hearing help they need.
The FDA reports over-the-counter hearing aids will cost from $200 to $1,000, as opposed to the typical price for a prescribed unit in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.
“I have had problems with hearing since I was 14-years-old," Masters said. “It’s always been embarrassing when I have to have people repeat things.”
“I'm very grateful that we have something that’s more reasonable, I had to use insurance and pay out-of-pocket, but many people can’t afford that type of thing. You as an individual have to be aware of yourself and what is the best for you," he added.
Erin Lally, Director of the Donna Smallwood Activity Center in Parma, told News 5 that dozens of seniors at her facility will benefit from the new FDA rule, which allows the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids to those 18 years and older, but said consumers need to understand a hearing aids functions and capabilities before they make a purchase.
“I was thinking it’s great because there are very few insurance plans that cover hearing aids," Lally said. "So this opens up the opportunity for people to get them who wouldn’t otherwise consider getting them.”
“Consumers need to be educated about hearing aids just like anything else and be aware of not giving any personal information. Making sure that you’re working with a manufacturer that’s reliable and know what the manufacturer limits are," added Lally. "What are their policies, can you return a hearing aid if it doesn’t work or fit. Try to purchase from a reliable store like a Walmart or a Walgreens.”
Sarah Sydlowski, the Audiology Director with the Cleveland Clinic, is urging over-the-counter buyers to still get an audiology exam if they can.
"You should never use a device without having a hearing test first," Sydlowski said. “I think that over-the-counter hearing aids are going to be very appropriate for people who may not have been ready to make the big step to see an audiologist.”
Tanisha Hill, Clinical Manager with the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging also recommend get an hearing test and trying on a hearing aid before purchase.
“Not getting the right hearing aid that fits you properly and know how does it work is an issue," Hill said. "So if you go to an audiologist and do a fitting, you can go back to an audiologist and say hey this isn’t fitting correctly. It would be good if they can have the option of fitting those things in their ears and trying them out before they actually buy it."
"Buy from places like Walmart and Walgreens and your drug store, they’re going to work with credentialed vendors who have gone through the correct process, you could potentially run into an issue if you buy on-line," Hill added.
Information on senior resources from the Donna Smallwood Activity Center in Parma can be found here.