- The FDA approved a rule Tues. to allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter, without a prescription or a doctor's exam, to adults "with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment." The final rule will take effect in Oct. when the products will be available in drugstores, retail stores, and online.
- The FDA claims the rule will lower the costs of hearing aids, saving consumers around $2,800. It approximates that 30M Americans experience hearing loss.
- Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to make hearing aids available over the counter and Trump signed it into law in 2017, but the final approval process has been slow. Last July, Biden issued an executive order urging the FDA to finalize its rule soon.
- The FDA's decision comes in the same week Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes other cost-saving healthcare measures, including caps on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
- The Hearing Industries Association, which represents major hearing aid companies, suppliers, and hearing health practitioners, still recommends seeing a professional and having a hearing test before purchasing any medical device.
- Narrative A, as provided by CNN. This is a breakthrough for eliminating market consolidation as just five companies control 90% of the global hearing aid market. It also increases the number of options for consumers when the competition brings down costs and leads to greater innovation. This is a win for millions of Americans who will benefit from these devices.
- Narrative B, as provided by Wired. Over-the-counter hearing aids aren't the panaceas they're being made out to be. Skipping the audiologist can lead to ill-fitting or even malfunctioning devices that could hurt the user's health. Advertising could promote stereotypes of the hearing impaired. And the financial cost could still be steep if these new devices need to be maintained and replaced frequently.