Coates Hearing Clinic, P.A.

OTC Hearing Aids

On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a comprehensive Executive Order that addresses a section on the long-anticipated rules for classifying over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

The final version of the document, creating a new classification of hearing aids, was finally released on August 15, 2022.

Proposed OTC Guidelines

The final version of the new rules creates a new class of hearing aids that is meant only for people with “perceived mild to moderate hearing loss”. While we hope this legislation will make hearing healthcare more accessible to those who have less-severe cases of hearing loss, we are concerned that it will lead
many to self-diagnose their own level of hearing impairment. Not only is self-diagnosis impossible, it is also dangerous. In addition to our concerns about the quality and performance of these devices, we are also concerned that some people with severe hearing loss will assume that the performance of these
OTC devices is “as good as it’s going to get”, leading to decades of mis-treated hearing loss and all of the health conditions associated with untreated hearing loss.

When finalized, the rule would allow hearing aids within this category to be sold directly to consumers in stores or online.

Though we are cautiously optimistic about the proposed legislation, many state attorneys general across the United States have released statements of caution, warning of possible scams and sub-par performance of these devices. These statements urge those with hearing loss to seek out professional testing before purchasing one of these devices.

Here is the link to the statement from North Carolina’s Attorney General, Josh Stein. 

OTC and Coates Hearing Clinic

Since this new class of device cannot match the performance, clarity, and background noise cancellation of actual hearing aids, it will be much less expensive than prescription devices. OTC devices will probably be in the $800-$1,000 range. At Coates Hearing Clinic, our hope is that this price range will
allow those who have very mild hearing loss to try hearing aids earlier than they would otherwise. In fact, once these devices hit the shelves, we plan to have OTC devices in our clinic as an option for our patients with very mild hearing loss who do not yet need prescription devices.

The most important thing to remember, and something that is echoed by years of research and statements from public health officials around the country, is that the first step in this journey is to get a hearing test. Most insurance companies cover the cost of hearing tests, so there is rarely any out-of-pocket cost. We are a medical practice, not a hearing aid retail store or chain hearing aid dealer. As such, our patients never receive a sales pitch and our providers’ recommendations are always based on the patient’s needs, not a sales quota. Please don’t let a previous negative experience at a chain hearing aid store prevent you from seeking care from an audiologist.

Another thing to remember is that many insurance plans have some sort of hearing aid benefit. About 75% of our patients have some sort of insurance benefit that brings the price of hearing aids down,
sometimes to the point where the patient pays nothing out of pocket for prescription hearing aids.

We are happy to answer any questions that you might have about OTC hearing aids and whether or not they might be right for your situation. As mentioned before, if you think you may have hearing loss, it is imperative that you seek out a qualified audiologist (in an audiology practice or ENT clinic) to get a hearing test. If you think that an OTC device might work for you, a hearing test can help to confirm your decision. As always, we are here to help!

Know the Facts

  • Hearing aids are medical devices that are already regulated by the FDA.
  • OTC hearing aids will be newly regulated devices for adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Studies have shown that adults underestimate their hearing loss when undertaking a self-assessment, so proper testing is a necessary first step.
  • Hearing screenings that are available online are not a substitute for an audiological exam. Among other things, these online screenings do not test bone conduction, use masking, test word recognition, or evaluate the same number of frequencies as our audiologists test. 
  • OTC hearing aids offer an affordable option to many more people. Having an affordable option should make hearing aid use more widespread.
  • A person with moderate to profound hearing loss needs to seek the services of an audiologist.
  • While an OTC hearing aid may offer some improvement, professionally fit hearing aids would be much
    better as they are prescribed to meet a patient’s needs and hearing loss.
  • OTC hearing aids are not programmed to the wearer’s specific hearing loss. It is unknown at this point if this could result in long-term negative outcomes.
  • An audiologist is trained to assess medically treatable causes of hearing loss and to ensure that any technology used to assist with hearing loss is appropriate or safely customized for each individual.
  • An audiologist can screen for other hearing-related issues such as asymmetry, which could indicate a serious underlying medical issue.
    One size OTC hearing aid does not fit all.
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) considers a consultation with an audiologist as a critical component of ensuring good hearing health and consumer protection.

Hearing Evaluations

If you suspect you may have a hearing loss and would benefit from hearing aids, our audiologists at Coates Hearing Clinic will be glad to conduct a thorough hearing evaluation for you to assess your needs. If hearing aids are recommended for your specific hearing loss, our audiologists are trained to fit the devices for your ear and specific needs with state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips. Hearing loss treatment is a process, and our audiologists will guide you every step of the way.

Hearing Aids

There are many types of hearing aids today, and the style or device depends on your lifestyle, budget, and hearing loss needs. There are in-the-ear styles as well as behind-the-ear styles. In addition to selecting the right style of device, it’s also important to consider what features would be most beneficial to you. From directional microphones to waterproof options, there are numerous varieties to meet everyone’s personal needs. Today’s hearing aids are equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to work with wireless technology like a cell phone or television.

Hearing aids are available in many different sizes and styles, thanks to advancements in digital technology and miniaturization of the internal components. Many of today’s hearing aids are considered sleek, compact, and innovative – offering solutions to a wide range of hearing aid users. When selecting a style of hearing aid, the following should be considered:

  • The type/degree of the hearing loss
  • Power requirements
  • Manual dexterity and visual abilities
  • Budget
  • Cosmetics and aesthetics
  • Anatomical and medical considerations
  • Lifestyle requirement

Hearing Aid Costs

Our hearing aids range in cost from $950 to $6,500. The cost depends on many factors, including whether or not you need one or two hearing aids, your type and degree of hearing loss, your lifestyle, and many other things as determined by your audiologist.

If you feel your financial circumstances preclude you from affording to purchase hearing aids, talk to us. There are many options available to help patients cover the cost of hearing aids. In fact, many people have hearing aid benefits as part of their insurance, so they might end up paying little or nothing out-of-pocket. There are also some state programs to help with hearing aid needs.

Coates Hearing Clinic is in-network with a state program that provides one hearing aid for adult patients who qualify. Additionally, we offer deferred interest payment plans, such as 12 months, same as cash plans, and there is also our non-profit, Matthew 11:15 in Smithfield. We’re committed to ensuring that any patient motivated to start treatment gets help, even if cost is a concern.

Coates Hearing Clinic in Smithfield, NC

Coates Hearing Clinic supports ASHA steadfastly in its commitment to advocating for policies that support a robust hearing health care delivery system and safe, effective, and affordable technology. We also agree that a consultation with an audiologist is critical to ensuring good hearing health and consumer protection. Our sincere hope is that the upcoming OTC legislation will allow more people to gain access to treatment.

If you are interested in a hearing evaluation, our compassionate team of audiologists at Coates Hearing Clinic is here to support your need for better hearing health. Call us at (984) 205-6863 to schedule an appointment.

If an OTC-type hearing aid is all you need, our audiologists will prescribe that for you. We are not in the business of up-selling to technology that the patient doesn’t need (unlike many of the chain hearing aid sellers). We exist to provide our patients with the highest level of audiological care available anywhere, not just to sell hearing aids. Our sincere wish is that no one would need hearing aids at all and that our patients’ perceived deficit is due to a simple issue like wax in the ears. But, when hearing aids or other treatment is necessary, you can trust that we will find the most cost-effective way for you to get the help you need.

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