By Anjali Mehta, MD and Robin Braveman, AuD
Division of Otolaryngology
Recently, the FDA made a decision that increases consumer access to over-the counter (OTC) hearing aids. The ruling is intended to increase the availability and affordability of products for adults age 18 and over with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss. The action established a new category of OTC hearing aids, enabling consumers to purchase hearing aids from retailers without the need for a medical exam, prescription or fitting adjustment by an audiologist. Keep in mind that the new rule does not affect laws that require an audiological evaluation for minors. (Hearing aids are mandated to be covered by health insurance in Massachusetts from infants to age 21.)
Before purchasing an OTC hearing aid, remember that most people are not very good at assessing their hearing loss. Those with normal hearing may think they have hearing loss and many people with significant hearing loss do not feel they have a problem. That’s why at Reliant Medical Group we strongly suggest you have your hearing tested before you purchase a hearing aid. It’s also important to realize that OTC hearing aids are designed to be adjusted by the purchaser, not an audiologist. These OTC hearing aids also lack the advanced circuitry, programmability, and flexibility of prescribed hearing aids. While this makes these products more affordable, they may not be as effective as a traditional hearing aids purchased after consultation and evaluation from a qualified audiologist.
While OTC hearing aids have their limitations, they can be an affordable alternative to traditional hearing aids for many patients. However, we feel it is always in the patient’s best interest to seek an audiological evaluation prior to purchase. Sufferers of mild to moderate hearing loss can also have conditions such as wax impaction, asymmetric hearing loss, middle ear disease, or loss of hearing that is more severe and requires other solutions.
At Reliant Medical Group, we have a staff of audiologists and other caregivers who play an important role in making sure our patients can optimize their hearing. If you have any questions about your hearing, please speak to your primary care provider, who may refer you to our Audiology office at (508) 368-3103.
About Anjali Mehta, MD, Chief of Allergy & Otolaryngology
The daughter of an anesthesiologist, Dr. Anjali Mehta enjoys being able get to know her patients and help them over the long term. “One of the reasons I like being an otolaryngologist is that it gives you the opportunity to develop close relationships with your patients,” she explains. “Most importantly, you really feel like you’ve made a difference in a person’s life when you’re successful in treating them.”
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