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A Year After Launch, OTC Hearing Aids Are Not Catching on With U.S. Consumers

A year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the devices, only a small fraction of people with hearing difficulties have bought one

By Physician’s Briefing Staff HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13, 2023 (HealthDay News) — It has now been possible to buy a hearing aid over them counter (OTC) for nearly a year, but few Americans are doing so. More education is needed about just who these OTC hearing aids can help, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). It polled more than 2,200 Americans about the issue in late June and early July.

Just 2 percent of respondents aged 40 years and older who have hearing difficulties said they had purchased an OTC hearing device, the poll showed. In all, 4 percent said they were likely to purchase an OTC hearing aid in the next year. About 56 percent of respondents said their hearing was not the best. Only 8 percent had been treated. Many respondents said their hearing difficulties were not “bad enough” to warrant care, ASHA found. About 48 percent of respondents with untreated hearing difficulties let their symptoms persist for more than two years. Nearly one-third of people with hearing difficulties said their quality of life had been adversely affected.

“Hearing problems aren’t uniform. They vary and, thus, so does treatment,” Janice Trent, vice president for audiology practice at ASHA, said in an association news release. “The longer one waits to act, the greater and more costly problems can become.”

That is why ASHA urges the public to seek a comprehensive hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist before purchasing an OTC device or taking some other step.

Advertising about the devices is not always helpful, according to ASHA, which noted an inaccurate comparison between OTC hearing aids and reading glasses. The hearing aids do not simply increase sound volume. Hearing can be damaged if an OTC is overamplified, the association warned.

“Hearing health must be a priority, not something that is taken lightly, neglected, or treated inappropriately or without clear and complete information,” Trent said. “We will continue to educate the public and professionals about OTCs as well as [about] the importance of hearing health and taking prompt action when hearing difficulties arise.”

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