Over-The-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids: The Opportunity
OTC products are a new, wider front door into the ever-expanding world of hearing health writes Dr. Heather Malyuk, Tuned’s Head of Audiology
On August 16, 2022, the FDA issued a “final rule” in an attempt to provide greater access to amplification for those with perceived mild-moderate hearing loss. In other words, they have approved a new category of Over-The-Counter (OTC) hearing aids for individuals who feel they might benefit from a boost to their hearing. These are devices that will amplify sound and can be sold online or in stores without the requirement of a hearing test completed by an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.
The concept of providing sound from a non-hearing aid device is not new and certainly not groundbreaking. For years, audiologists have been recommending such devices under the name of “Personal Sound Amplifiers,” or “Alternative Amplification,” when it has been appropriate and beneficial for the patient. The difference now is that a certain number of these products can be considered “FDA approved.” Note, that the wording here is “audiologists have been recommending.” While the soon-to-be booming OTC hearing aid market presents many opportunities for individuals who might not have otherwise considered amplifying their hearing losses, it also presents an opportunity for confusion in the marketplace.
The expansion of access to affordable, convenient amplification for millions of individuals with perceived mild-moderate hearing loss should be celebrated! However, within that celebration, it should be recognized that a product is not equal to “hearing care,” because it does not include a personalized relationship with a hearing healthcare provider. Not all OTC devices are created equal because not all auditory systems are the same. While some OTC products might work well for a subset of individuals, those same products could cause more aggravation and issues than benefits for others. This is why audiologic guidance is now more important than ever.
In 2022, the general population now has access to online hearing screening tools, telehealth capabilities, and transparent product reviews from experts in the audiology field. Furthermore, the category of hearing care is expanding rapidly to include more specializations such as auditory processing disorder treatment, tinnitus management, hearing loss prevention, and more. That is why OTC products aren’t an obstacle to audiologic care. Rather, they are a new, wider front door into the ever-expanding world of hearing health.
Tuned supports the leading experts in the field of modern hearing care. Those who are familiar with premier OTC products can pair them expertly with patients to create the best hearing scenarios for each individual. The best part is that access to the Tuned platform can be provided as a health benefit for companies.
By embracing the future in a thoughtful way, Tuned puts modern, affordable hearing care within earshot.