Should you get an over-the-counter hearing aid or see a hearing specialist?

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Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that hearing aids will soon be available for purchase over-the-counter for adults with “mild to moderate hearing loss.” Prior to the announcement of this new regulation, individuals had to consult an audiologist to obtain a traditional hearing aid.

Currently, to determine if a hearing aid will improve a patient’s communication, two important assessments are administered by a hearing health professional. First, a comprehensive review of the patient’s communication needs is performed. Next, a standardized test called audiometry is administered to quantify the severity and type of hearing loss experienced.

Once the audiologist has a complete picture of the patient’s hearing loss, as well as an idea of ​​when they experience hearing difficulties, they will recommend the most appropriate type of hearing technology.

However, millions of Americans will soon be able to purchase hearing aids from places like their local pharmacy without seeing an audiologist. But Devin McCaslin, Ph.D., director of audiology at Michigan Medicine, says there are a few important things to remember when it comes to hearing loss.

“Overall, this new change is great,” McCaslin said. “Before, there were only a few manufacturers making hearing aids, which created a cost barrier to entry. But now the FDA estimates that people will save nearly $2,800 when buying hearing aids, which is phenomenal.

McCaslin says that before these regulations, many people avoided getting their hearing problems fixed because of other inhibiting factors.

“Now you’re going to see a lot of people who have been living with issues related to their hearing for a long time looking for hearing aids,” he said. “It may be because they didn’t want to see an audiologist, for example, or because they weren’t aware of their individual condition. Inevitably, the perceived “risks” associated with treating hearing loss will now be less, which will serve a large number of people better. »

However, McCaslin notes that if a person is unsure if they have mild to moderate hearing loss, it is always best to consult a hearing care professional before purchasing an over-the-counter hearing aid.

“It can be difficult for some to assess whether they have a hearing problem,” he said. “That’s why I always recommend people make an appointment with a hearing care professional if they’re wondering if they’re in the fitting range for a hearing aid or if they want recommendations on which devices to buy. If a person thinks there is something wrong with their hearing, it’s always a good idea to get a hearing test done by a professional.

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