Pete Costey said it was his wife who first noticed that he was turning up the volume of the TV more than she liked.
“I don’t hear words in movies as much anymore,” admitted Kosti, who lives outside of Washington, D.C.
Watching TV isn’t Kosti’s only problem. In his church choir, he can’t always hear his turn and get the pitch right. It also influenced his work at the Fire Safety Research Institute, a non-profit organization that creates safety research. The 61-year-old said he feels less efficient in judging sound quality when his team makes life-saving videos for firefighters.
“It affects all aspects of my life,” he said.
He saw an audiologist who said he needed hearing aids, but that would have cost him more than $6000. “I thought, ‘Maybe this can wait,'” Kosti said.
That was seven years ago.
The wait may be over for Costey and millions of other Americans. On Monday, for the first time, adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in the United States will be able to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids. Those under 18 or with severe hearing loss will still need a prescription.
The FDA announced the long-awaited rule change in August, leading to options that should be cheaper and possibly better.
Now, instead of getting a prescription and getting custom formulations with a hearing health professional, adults can buy hearing aids directly from the store or online. Some doctors estimate that 90% of people with a hearing loss can benefit from these over-the-counter devices.
Experts say the move is a “game changer”.
“We’ve worked for years to get affordable and accessible hearing health care,” said Barbara Kelly, executive director of the American Hearing Loss Association. “We’re really looking forward to Monday.”
Kelly said Couste certainly isn’t alone in giving away hearing aids because they were too expensive. Only about 16% of the tens of millions of people with hearing loss use hearing aids, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
The number of people with hearing impairment is large. About 1 in 8 people in the United States age 12 or older have hearing loss in both ears, and the rate increases significantly with age. About a quarter of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have a hearing loss, and this percentage rises to 50% by about age 75.
On average, people spend at least $4,000 out of their pocket on devices for both ears, according to a 2020 study published in the medical journal JAMA. Prices can vary: major retailers may offer a pair for $1,400, but some can cost as much as $6,000 per ear, depending on the technology.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law that allows the use of over-the-counter hearing aids hasn’t changed how devices are covered. While private insurance companies will pay for treatment after losing a limb or even cover the cost of Viagra, most do not cover hearing aids. Most Medicare plans won’t pay for it either. Only about half of state Medicaid programs do this.
So far, five companies have It controls 90% of the global market for hearing aids. This type of consolidation meant that there was little price competition.
With this change, many companies are expected to enter the market. Experts say existing manufacturers will also develop low-cost over-the-counter devices in addition to their existing offerings.
On Monday, some of the familiar companies in the audio world will sell hearing aids.
Sony has two models that pair with an app that allows users to customize settings and find additional support. The CRE-C10 retails for $999.99 and has a battery life of 70 hours of continuous use. The CRE-E10 features an earphone-like design and a rechargeable battery; It is compatible with Bluetooth technology to stream music or audio. It will be available for $1,299.99 on the Sony website and at Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers.
Bose also teamed up with Lexie Hearing to offer the B1 model for $899 a pair. B2 for $999, add Rechargeable battery works up to 18 hours. Both models are Bluetooth enabled, and can be set by the wearer and paired with a mobile app for support. They will be sold online, in drugstores, and in stores such as Best Buy.
Best Buy says nearly 300 of its stores will offer a “hearing experience,” which will include about 10 over-the-counter hearing aids and PSAPs, or personal sound amplification products. These devices improve sound but do not need to meet FDA standards, unlike hearing devices, which must meet FDA’s high labeling, manufacturing, and safety standards, like other medical devices.
Best Buy encourages customers to perform a hearing evaluation on its website before coming to the store to work with trained partners to select a new device.
Not only is it good to have hearing aids; They are essential for physical and mental health.
Studies have found that people with hearing impairments who do not have hearing devices are more likely to report poor overall health, and are less likely to leave the house or exercise.
There is a link between hearing impairment and general impairment and an increased risk of falls, which are the second leading cause of unintentional death worldwide, according to the World Health Assembly.
Several studies have also found a link between hearing loss and poor mental health and psychosocial health.
Hearing loss can lead to depression, loneliness, isolation — and even dementia.
With easy access to hearing aids, “I have a big smile on my face now,” said Dr. Frank Lane, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health. He has been consulting with the government on this issue for eight years.
Lin said there has been little innovation in this area because of the way the market has been organized.
“In 1977, because of technology at the time, the only way to make hearing aids safe and effective was if they were professionally programmed, installed and modified by a licensed provider,” he said. But the market and this technology has changed dramatically.
“This will allow companies like Samsung, Apple, Google – companies that make innovative earbuds – to enter the market now. They really couldn’t before.”
Kelly said that if you’re planning to buy an over-the-counter hearing aid, be sure to read the return policy. The FDA did not require companies to provide one, as the Kelly Group paid for, but any return policy must be listed on the package.
Check how long you have before you can put it back too. Hearing aids are different from glasses; It can take your brain up to four weeks to adjust to hearing in a new way.
Test it under different conditions over a few weeks to see if it works. Do they help in a crowded room, or are they better at work? It is not one size fits all.
Couste said he will check with his insurance company to see if they will pay for any of the cost of the OTC device. But finally, after all these years, he thinks he’ll soon be able to hear better.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Kosti said. “I really.”
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