Over-the-counter hearing aids go on sale in the US

A prescription is no longer needed for those with mild-to-moderate hearing impairment, the FDA said.

Sony Electronics, Inc.

Adults in the US with mild-to-moderate hearing loss can now buy hearing aids online or from a store without a prescription, medical exam or audiologist fitting. The Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule in August that allows stores and online retailers to sell over-the-counter (OTC) devices starting today.

The move could save consumers thousands of dollars on a pair of hearing aids, according to the White House. Walmart is now selling them through its website, Sam's Club, more than 1,000 in-store Vision Centers and 474 Sam’s Club Hearing Aid Center locations. Walmart's options cost between $199 and $999 per pair. The company claimed comparable prescription hearing aids cost between $4,400 and $5,500.

Walgreens and CVS are also now selling OTC hearing aids. Best Buy and Hy-Vee will begin selling them online this week and in stores a little later.

Last week, Sony announced two hearing aid models that it created with WS Audiology. The CRE-C10 has a battery life of up to 70 hours on a single charge, according to Sony. That model will be available sometime this month. The CRE-E10, meanwhile, will cost $1,300. Sony claims it has a battery life of 26 hours, though you'll be able to recharge it wirelessly. The CRE-E10 can also connect to an iPhone for audio playback.

Jabra revealed a set of hearing enhancement earbuds in August 2021. While they were initially available from hearing care clinics, but Jabra says they're now on sale as OTC hearing aids. Early last year, Bose announced what it claimed were the first FDA-cleared hearing aids that don't need a prescription or visit to a doctor.

Nearly 30 million Americans are believed to have some degree of hearing loss, including 10 million folks under the age of 60. Over-the-counter hearing aids could drastically improve many people's quality of life, especially since the devices should be far less expensive. However, those who have severe hearing loss or anyone aged under 18 will still need a prescription for hearing aids, the FDA ruled.