The F.D.A. has cleared a path for hearing aids to be sold over the counter (OTC). At first, this seems like a pure healthcare play – and it may turn out to be just that. Today, buying a hearing aid requires a trip to an audiologist, hearing tests, and a prescription, followed by a huge expense not covered by insurance. This is set to change as soon as October. OTC hearing aids will be available for people with low to moderate hearing loss, which will change the nature of the hearing aid market.
There may be more to the story. OTC devices will not be subject to the same constraints as prescription devices. Imagine a wide range of new devices that offer AI assistance, augmented reality features, access to a personal digital assistant (Alexa, Siri, Hey Google, etc.). Imagine, more importantly, the potential de-stigmatization of prosthetic devices designed to enhance hearing. Audio AR is in its infancy, but it has the potential to change lives the same way that Amazon’s Echo gave agency to the injured and infirm. Some chuckle when they see an Alexa-compatible shower, but for those who do not have the ability to reach the shower handles, the technology provides agency and dignity. It’s this world of possibilities that may be the unintended consequences of this new OTC regulation.
One more thing: the New York Times shared a recent survey that found people aged 50 to 80 “were twice as likely to plan on taking their pet to the veterinarian in the coming year than to get their hearing checked.” If you think your hearing isn’t what it used to be, go get your hearing checked!
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.