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Ready to Buy Hearing Aids? Why Your First Step Should be an Evaluation with an Audiologist

August 22, 2022

Millions of Americans will be able to buy hearing aids without a prescription later this fall, under a long-awaited federal rule change. The new regulation creates a new class of hearing aids that don’t require a medical exam, prescription or special evaluation. The devices will be available online or over-the-counter at pharmacies and other retail stores. It comes after years of pressure from medical experts and consumer advocates to make the devices cheaper and easier to get. But now that these devices can be purchased directly, is there still a reason to have a hearing consultation?

The answer is yes, according to an audiologist

“I am happy that hearing is a topic today that everyone is talking about. This change is bringing a very common health issue to the forefront," said Andrea Bates, Au.D., audiologist at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital. "This can be a stepping stone for some to enter into the hearing aid world and start their journey to better hearing. But it shouldn’t be at the cost of an accurate hearing evaluation and expertise of an audiologist.” > Schedule my hearing evaluation

Hearing aids are a major investment.

Like other medical devices, hearing aids can be costly. Consumers might try to save a few dollars and buy them directly, but a hearing consultation offers many other important services bundled with the device. “The cost includes all services, the devices themselves, and whatever follow-up is needed for several years afterwards,” said Bates. “Counseling and setting proper expectations with hearing aids is also a major part of what I do in assisting patients."

And if they break, you're covered.

The services included in your hearing consultation also act like a warranty that covers any issues with the device or follow-care that might be needed for up to three years, explained Bates. "You might pay less for these over-the-counter devices,” Bates said. “But who will you bring that device to when it doesn’t work or there are other issues?” > Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Not all hearing losses are best treated with traditional hearing aids.

Hearing aids are the treatment that most people associate with hearing loss, but they may not always the best fit. “Hearing loss is very unique to each individual,” said Bates. "There are many other appropriate devices or implants that may be best for the patient that they may not otherwise know about without seeking the care of an audiologist."

How common is hearing loss?

According to a study by Cleveland Clinic, only 10% of U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 80 could properly identify a "normal" range of hearing. The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults could potentially benefit from a hearing aid. Currently, only one in every five people with hearing problems currently use one.

Can hearing loss affect your overall health?

Untreated hearing loss can have ramifications for overall health, Bates noted. It can lead to:
  • Becoming a fall risk, because the body’s balance centers are in the ears.
  • Cognitive decline.
  • Increase in depression, social anxiety and social withdrawal.