According to a California Healthline article just out today, over-the-counter hearing aids may be on the brink of approval by the FDA and the FTC. Over the past few years, the difference between a Personal Sound Amplification Device (PSAD) and an actual hearing aid has narrowed. The best PSADs are, in fact, hearing aids in every way except how we refer to them. The eminent move by the FDA is an acknowledgement of this fact.
The high and unreimbursed cost of hearing aids has been a powerful driver towards recognition of the viability of consumers purchasing their own hearing aids without the assistance of a hearing professional. Is this the end of the hearing aid fitting industry as we know it? I doubt it.
Devices purchased and programmed directly by consumers should become a gateway product that introduce the consumer to the benefits of hearing aids. Getting the consumer, who has identifiable hearing loss, to make the initial purchase has always been the biggest barrier to overcome. The industry standard is that there is a seven year gap between recognition of a hearing problem and purchase of a first hearing aid. Having an inexpensive over-the-counter hearing aid will shorten that gap considerably, which is good news for the consumer and for the hearing professional.