For many Americans who deal with hearing loss, the cost of a pair of hearing aids is prohibitive. They can range from just shy of $1,000 on up to more than $6,000 for each device, depending on the level of technology.
Most people with hearing loss need two hearing aids, and most insurance providers do not cover the cost. According to the White House, just 14% of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss use them.
The high price tag is often a barrier to getting the help and relief hearing aids provide, but there might be some help coming soon.
The Senate passed a bill on Thursday allowing people to purchase hearing aids without a doctor’s prescription. Advocates of the change say it will make hearing aids more accessible and significantly reduce costs by increasing competition in the marketplace.
Congress passed a bipartisan proposal in 2017 that allowed over-the-counter hearing aids to be sold, but no rules subsequently have been issued to put the action into effect.
The executive order directs the Department of Health and Human Services to consider issuing proposed rules within 120 days for allowing hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter.
Current law requires consumers to buy hearing aids through certified audiologists who are trained to treat hearing problems, which drives up the price. The new proposal would allow people to bypass the licensed audiologist.
The hearing aid initiative is one of 72 proposed in the executive order, which seeks to “reduce the trend of corporate consolidation, increase competition, and deliver concrete benefits to America’s consumers, workers, farmers, and small businesses,” the White House noted.