OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Over-the-counter hearing aids will be available for the first time October 17, five years after Congress and the FDA first took steps to make them available.

Starting next week people with self perceived mild to moderate hearing loss won’t need to come to an office like Associated Audiologists in Overland Park to get a doctor prescribed hearing aid. They’ll be available over the counter.

“Every time you hear a series of beeps say yes so I know you heard them,” an audiologist said during a diagnostic test in the office Tuesday.

“If someone were to come to us the starting point the blueprint is always a diagnostic hearing test to determine what type of hearing loss they have, the frequencies of hearing loss,” Dr. Tim Steele, Associated Audiologists President and C.E.O., said.

So you might be surprised to find Associated Audiologists supports the FDA’s move.

“Actually we think it’s a good thing we believe there’s going to be better access for people who can’t afford technology,” Steele said.

“When people find out they have a hearing loss they often wait 5-7 years and a lot can happen in that time, so this gives people another pathway to care,” Barbara Kelley said.

But for all its benefits, there are things to consider. Doctor prescribed hearing aids come with fittings and tests to adjust levels.

“Over the counter hearing aids are going to be done by the consumer, but we can still run some of those measurements here. We hope to be a continued resource for people who have OTC hearing aids if they need more support,” Steele said.

Then there’s the question of how well the products will work as multiple companies try to corner a new potentially multi-billion dollar market?

“Whether it’s $300 or $800 we want to make sure that people are getting  what they expect to receive,” Janice Trent, V.P. of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, said.

Kelley advised to definitely check the return policy. Best Buy and Walgreens are among companies with stores in the Kansas City area that have announced plans for OTC hearing aid sales.

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