This week the long-awaited entrance of OTC (over-the-counter) hearing aids entered the market. While the law was passed almost 2 years ago… the legislature was given a time frame in which to develop appropriate language and rules before the hearing aids could hit the stores.
What do I think of this? For those of you who have worn hearing instruments for years and have received care and support for your hearing aids, you have expressed that you do not know how anyone would want to go buy their hearing aids off a store shelf. That reasoning is because you know what it takes to hear better. It is a journey… not just with the hearing aids…but also with the support of a highly trained hearing health care professional.
But… what do I think? Well, I think there are Pros & Cons. There are millions of people who need better hearing, so a lower-price option is not a bad idea. Do I think that it will drive prescription professionally fit hearing instrument prices to come down? Not really. Remember, you are not just paying to pick up a product. You have a professional; testing, counseling, recommending, cleaning ears, referring to appropriate health care professionals, “FITTING’ the hearing aids, and adjusting and fine-tuning over the life of the hearing instruments. You get a team member when you are fit professionally. How much each patient needs to come in for office visits is different for every patient. Some need more appointments and help than others. I do believe, however, that all BIG 6 Hearing Instrument Manufacturers will release a version of an OTC product. This is best for the consumers. The actual hearing aid manufacturers already build great products for better hearing. There are also just different no-name companies that are jumping up just to make a quick buck. So, if you do try an OTC hearing aid. I would urge you to try and find one built by one of the big six hearing aid manufacturers. So, what do OTC hearing aids offer? The wording of the law states that is for mild to moderate hearing loss. So how do you… the consumer… determine what degree your hearing loss is? Well, you should get a comprehensive hearing evaluation, “In-Person”.. not over a computer or a phone line.
EVERYONE needs a qualified hearing health care provider to look in their ears before getting a hearing test or putting any device into it. You may not even have a hearing loss.. maybe you have an old injury. Scar tissue from noise exposure, or a hole in your eardrum, or fluid causing a temporary problem. An in-depth hearing evaluation and consultation will reveal what it takes to make you understand… not just what it takes for you to make sounds louder or to hear tones. So if you want to try an OTC.. call us…385-3497 we can set up a time for a hearing test to determine if it is a product that will help.
Do a little research before you purchase. Prices will run from $69 per aid to $1200 per aid… so far that is what I have seen. What do you get for that? You pick up the product off the shelf and take it home and figure out how to use it.
There may be an app for your phone with some basic volume controls. Bose ™ released one back in January and broke the rules on the October release date. I recently have had 2 different patients who purchased them back in January come in to get hearing evaluations and “get something they can hear with”. They both told me that things were louder, but they still couldn’t understand their wives any better. They paid around $2200 each. So, these are at the top end of the technology scale. I put the aids on my analyzer to determine their capabilities. It turns out the hearing aids basically amplified the mid-frequencies and some of the low frequencies. Basically, the middle of the audiogram. They didn’t sound bad either. However, both men had high frequency hearing loss. They did not have any hearing loss where the Bose ™ instruments amplified. The only way you know which instrument… an OTC hearing aid or a professionally fit hearing instrument will work best is to take the first step and get a thorough hearing evaluation “in-person” so that you are completely educated as to how to proceed with the purchase of a product that will provide you with better hearing.
The rulings on the OTC Hearing aids so far do not provide return guidelines. So perhaps that will be determined by each store that sells them. Can you return them? For how long? What happens to the hearing aids that are returned to the young cashier at the counter? Do they just stick them back on the shelf because you still had all the packaging? What if you have been wearing them and they clogged up from wax or sweat and you don’t know how to fix it and you it take back cause it doesn’t amplify or sound good… do they just give you your money back and stick them back on the shelf? There is NO language in the law as to what they are to do in this situation. HMMM….
Starkey Hearing Technologies (57 years in business, the only Made-in-America hearing aid manufacturer, and the leader in hearing health technologies will be producing an OTC product. We will offer this product. Almost 3 years ago we “unbundled” our office pricing to itemize out exactly what is included in your purchase price. You can be professionally fit with 8 levels of technology to choose from. You can separately purchase service plans or just pay for your appointments when needed. We are “unbundled & itemized” in our pricing. Already, we have hearing instruments starting at $495 each… for the last 3 years… and you get us… not a cashier. The new OTC product will be available at our office, Lampe & Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, in just a couple weeks. We have not seen the product yet... but it is built by the best hearing aid company in the group. Start with a complete hearing test.
We can help... which ever way you desire to invest in... OTC or Prescription Fit. Call (863) 385-3497. To Hear Better Is To Live Better!