FDA Rules on Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Photo: Getty Images [via The New York Times]

The Facts

  • The FDA approved a rule Tues. to allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter, without a prescription or a doctor's exam, to adults "with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment." The final rule will take effect in Oct. when the products will be available in drugstores, retail stores, and online.

  • The FDA claims the rule will lower the costs of hearing aids, saving consumers around $2,800. It approximates that 30M Americans experience hearing loss.

The Spin

Narrative A

This is a breakthrough for eliminating market consolidation as just five companies control 90% of the global hearing aid market. It also increases the number of options for consumers when the competition brings down costs and leads to greater innovation. This is a win for millions of Americans who will benefit from these devices.

Narrative B

Over-the-counter hearing aids aren't the panaceas they're being made out to be. Skipping the audiologist can lead to ill-fitting or even malfunctioning devices that could hurt the user's health. Advertising could promote stereotypes of the hearing impaired. And the financial cost could still be steep if these new devices need to be maintained and replaced frequently.

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