Hearing aids became available over the counter at dramatically lower costs today when a 2017 law finally went into effect.
The new rule will make the devices, which typically require professional prescriptions and adjustments, more available and affordable.
The move is being hailed as a major victory for the narrowly 38 million Americans living with hearing loss.
The policy change is also expected to save people thousands of dollars on the notoriously expensive devices. A hearing aid can cost between $1,000 and $4,000.
Americans can purchase hearing aids online from major retailers including CVS, Walgreens, Best Buy, and Walmart at a variety of prices.
Inventory will be available in stores at the end of the month. Walgreens sells headphones in stores nationwide and online for $799 a pair.
Best Buy will offer nearly 20 different hearing aids online and have them in stores by the end of the month.
And at Walmart.com, SamsClub.com and more than 1,400 stores, people can buy a hearing aid for as little as $199.
Hearing aids became available over the counter at dramatically lower costs today when a 2017 law finally went into effect. The new rule will make the devices, which typically require professional prescriptions and adjustments, more available and affordable.
Hearing aids typically cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. On the low end, a hearing aid will cost someone around $1,000. But under the new rule, someone with hearing loss can get a device for as little as $199.
The rule change was started in august by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), said: ‘Reducing health care costs in America has been a priority for me since day one.
How many Americans will benefit?
More than 37 million Americans deal with some degree of hearing loss.
Nearly 25 percent of adults ages 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those over age 75 have disabling hearing loss.
Some 29 million American adults could benefit from the use of hearing aids.
Among adults age 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) have ever used them.
Even fewer young adults ages 20 to 69 who would benefit from hearing aids (16 percent) have used them.
“This rule is expected to help us achieve quality, affordable access to health care for millions of Americans in need.”
The rule is intended to benefit people living with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, including those who have trouble hearing in groups or on the phone, who need to turn the TV volume up louder than others, and who normally don’t understand speech or ask others to repeat themselves,
Many more manufacturers are now expected to enter the market, breaking up the ultra-consolidated market that is 90 percent mastered for five companies.
Walmart said it will continue to expand its offerings across a wide range of price points from around $200 to $999 a pair.
Walmart’s price is a far cry from the usual price of around $2,000 per device because the associated costs of doctor’s appointments and other medical services have been eliminated.
While costs for people 18 and older with hearing loss will be reduced, the new rule doesn’t change the fact that most health insurance plans don’t cover the cost of hearing aids.
The progressive wing of Congress led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who meets with Democrats, has been pushing for years to include hearing aids in government health programs.
About 10 million Americans over the age of 60 rely on hearing aids, but traditional Medicare, the government’s health care program for seniors, doesn’t cover the cost of the devices.
The arrival of competition will also drive innovation. Tech giants like Jabra, Sony, Apple and many others are expected to adapt their audio technology for hearing aids.
Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, hailed the move as a “game changer.”
She told CNN: “We have been working for years to make hearing health care affordable and accessible.”