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OTC Hearing Aids – Legislation

In 2017, legislation authorized the FDA to create a new classification of OTC hearing aids. The Over The Counter Hearing Aid Act (H.R. 1652) passed with the intent to improve access and affordability of hearing aids. Finally, in August 2022, the final regulations were published and approved. These hearing devices are designed for adults age 18 and older with “perceived mild to moderate hearing loss” and can be purchased over-the-counter. No prior hearing assessment is required and there are no included professional services. This legislation is in line with recommendations from both President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine.

What is an OTC Hearing Aid?

An OTC hearing aid is designed to provide amplified sound for individuals with “perceived” mild to moderate hearing loss. On the outside, an OTC hearing aid may look similar to a standard, prescription-based hearing aid. But OTCs are usually not programmable with advanced software and are limited in style and features. Some OTCs have available presets and others have preference controls (like volume or bass/treble balance). OTC hearing devices are intended to be worn like dime-store reading glasses. The user sets up and customizes the hearing aid on their own. OTC hearing aids have limited loudness output for safety and will not provide adequate audibility for more than a moderate hearing loss. If you find you need hearing support in many listening environments, you should be evaluated for a traditional hearing aid.

If you do not find benefit from an OTC hearing aid, don’t be discouraged! The capabilities of that device may not be appropriate for your needs. Our providers are committed to the full spectrum of technology, and can guide you in your hearing journey.

Will an OTC Hearing Aid Help Me?

The first step when pursuing hearing care is ALWAYS a comprehensive hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist.  At the UNC Hearing & Communication Center, our board certified audiologists can help diagnose your exact degree and type of hearing loss. Most health insurance plans cover this testing.  We also already offer an array of affordable hearing solutions for every budget. We even prescribe available OTC devices, when appropriate. While OTC hearing devices may seem appealing at first, most individuals with hearing loss require the professional services and expertise of an audiologist to make sure they get the most out of their investment. Don’t let cost deter you from hearing better and being connected to friends and loved ones. Make an appointment today to learn more and begin your hearing journey!

Ask yourself: Do I want to be a patient or a consumer? The answer may direct you to the level of services required to treat your hearing need. Read about “Who Is Not A Good OTC Candidate” Here.

How Cheap Are OTC Hearing Aids?

The cost and quality of OTC hearing aids and similar amplifiers will vary greatly. While some OTC devices are priced below $500 for the pair, the highest quality ones are typically around $1000, especially if there are features such as rechargeability or bluetooth connectivity. At the UNC Hearing and Communication Center, we believe that hearing outcomes are best achieved when professional service is provided along with the device (whatever it is!). To that end, we offer fully programmable, digital, prescription-based hearing aids at the cost of OTC hearing aids – without any sacrifice of care. If you are considering an OTC hearing aid, check with your audiologist whether an affordable, entry-level hearing aid would be just as inexpensive (if not cheaper!) than the OTC option. We are committed to the full spectrum of hearing technology and options might surprise you!

OTC Hearing Aid Affordable Prescription Hearing Aid
– $200-$1500 for the pair – $1000 – $1200 for the pair
– No services. Customer is responsible for setup, fit and adjustments. – Doctor of Audiology fits, programs and verifies the output of the device to a prescription
– No follow up care, orientation or training to use the devices – Personalized counseling, aural rehabilitation and follow up
– Features vary – volume control, likely battery operated, minimal noise reduction – Digital signal processing, noise reduction, user controls
– Only for mild to moderate hearing loss. Limited power. – For all hearing loss severity, from mild to profound


What if I Already Own OTC Hearing Aids?

Already own devices from another provider or from the store/online? We’d be happy to help! Often devices can be optimized and improved using our best practice fitting and programming methods. Our unbundled billing model make us the perfect provider to assess your devices, only charging you for the services you need. While OTC hearing aids are not programmable, we can assist you in making them more comfortable and provide guidance on their performance and effectiveness. Make an appointment with one our audiologists to see if your current devices are providing you your best hearing. (visit Improve My Current Aids for more information) It is also important to remember that hearing treatment should be more than the device. Aural rehabilitation and counseling can further improve your ability to communicate.