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FDA: Hearing aids will be available to purchase over-the-counter starting mid-October

FDA: Hearing aids will soon be available to purchase over-the-counter
FDA: Hearing aids will soon be available to purchase over-the-counter 02:14

TEANECK, N.J. -- It'll soon be easier, and potentially cheaper, to buy hearing aids.

Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration announced Americans will be able to purchase the devices over-the-counter starting in mid-October.

READ MORE: FDA moves to allow many Americans to buy hearing aids without a prescription

The FDA estimates about 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Of those, only 1 in 5 get the help they need.

"A significantly small fraction of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually get them and use them," said Dr. Sujana Chandrasekhar, an otologist with ENT and Allergy Associates.

Parts of the reason are a small number of manufacturers and cost. Hearing aids often retail for more than $5,000.

Without them, studies have found an increase in depression, anxiety and even an increased risk of dementia.

"You can make your quality of life much, much better if you identify your hearing loss and then ameliorate it," Chandrasekhar said.

President Joe Biden said in a statement, "As early as mid-October, Americans will be able to purchase more affordable hearing aids over the counter at pharmacies and stores across the country."

The FDA's new rule would apply to people over the age of 18 with mild to moderate hearing loss. Anyone under 18 or with severe loss will still need a prescription-level device.

The option to stock store shelves with hearing aids isn't for everyone.

Michael Fedida, owner of J&J Pharmacy in Teaneck, says they won't have the devices in stock, at least not in the near future.

"It's the kind of item, I think, if you put 20 different models on the shelf and somebody buys one, chances are it's gonna come back. 'It doesn't work for me, I'm not happy with it, I want my money back,'" he told CBS2's Kevin Rincon.

Fedida has been the owner of J&J pharmacy for 35 years, and he himself has used a hearing aid for the last seven.

"Without them, I can't really function well. I can't hear my wife. I can't hear my kids," he said. "I couldn't take a prescription over the phone from a doctor. I'd be afraid to hear the wrong drug, the wrong dose."

He's hopeful the technology will improve but fears a lot of trial and error.

Some medical professionals, including Dr. Enrique Perez at Mount Sinai, worry about self-diagnosing.

"You want to make sure that this is not something that ends up hurting patients," he said. "Sort of maybe a questionnaire, like, where it could raise red flags, et cetera, for the patient to understand that look, this is something that you should probably go see someone, just have a formal evaluation."

He says his biggest frustration is knowing the problem and identifying the solution, but having cost get in the way.

Keep in mind, hearing aids are not covered by Medicare, so this could be an answer for some. 

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