The state director of AARP says the FDA’s approval of new rules allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids will have a big impact on Iowans.

Brad Anderson says this is something AARP has pushed for the last five years. “It is a game changer for roughly 40 million older adults currently experiencing hearing loss. And we anticipate the new rule and the new devices that are in the pipeline, will quickly transform the market,” Anderson says.

The rules announced Tuesday are for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Anderson says the devices can help prevent bigger issues brought on by hearing loss. “It can lead to risk of isolation, depression, and even dementia,” Anderson says. “The current market however, because hearing aids cost thousands of dollars, and they require a prescription and a fitting, many Americans experiencing mild or moderate hearing loss, simply let it ride and they don’t do anything about it,” he says.

Anderson says they expect the market to bring hearing aid costs down. “They cost around 2,300 to as much as $6,000. What experts believe is that these new over-the-counter hearing aids will cost between 250 and $1,000 per pair,” according to Anderson. He says they are still expensive –but that is a big cut in the expense. Anderson says AARP fought for the change through a bipartisan law, written by Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

He says part of the lengthy process was the time it took for the FDA figure out all the rules for the over-the-counter devices.
“Everything from…what will be allowed in the hearing devices, …what will be allowed within the marketplace, where the new devices will be sold. How do people return the devices if they don’t work? So there are a lot of things that go into these rules,” he says.

Medicare will not cover the cost of the new hearing aids — but Anderson hopes that comes in the future. “AARP has long supported Medicare coverage of hearing aids, but one step at a time. So they will still be required to be paid for out of pocket,” Anderson says, “but, again, the cost savings, the FDA estimates that the average consumer will save around $2,800 per pair, given the new rule.”

People with severe to profound hearing loss are still advised to get prescription devices which can be more accurately tuned to the individual’s needs by a professional.