The cost of OTC hearing aids doesn’t include fitting, programming, or support. Many people don’t realize that the current cost of hearing aids often includes expert fitting, programming, and follow-up appointments, typically over several years. Finding a properly fitting OTC hearing aid that adequately improves hearing may be even more difficult than buying a pair of great-fitting jeans off the rack.
Explore This IssueApril 2022
“I have patients now who come in with hearing aids they bought elsewhere who tell me they can’t wear their hearing aids because they hurt,” Dr. Backous said. “I’ll look at the molds, give them to the audiologist to grind down, and guess what? The hearing aids are suddenly comfortable, the patient can hear, and they do great.”
Some patients will find great satisfaction with the first OTC hearing aid they try. Many will not. Help patients understand the value of professional fitting and programming and the benefits and limitations of over-the-counter technology. People who understand the value of expert evaluation and individually tailored hearing solutions may be more inclined to seek professional assistance for hearing loss, even if they choose to purchase an OTC device.
Incorporating OTC Hearing Aids into Your Practice
Although most otolaryngologists agree that physicians and audiologists should continue to play an important role in the treatment of hearing loss, they also agree that the best path forward is to integrate OTC hearing aids into the hearing care continuum.
“As otolaryngologists, we don’t want to present to our patients that we’re against over-the-counter hearing aids,” Dr. Grisel said. “We want to do the right thing for our patients, and if we can get them in a safe pair of hearing technology that’s cheaper and works for them, we should be for that. If used properly and with proper education, OTC hearing aids could be a boost to our practices.”
—Doug Backous, MD
Dr. Backous also believes that integrating OTC aids into existing practices can be a “margin-positive experience,” he said. “There’s no question that hearing aid sales are currently a significant part of most private practices. But I personally believe that by embracing over-the-counter technologies and getting involved in fitting them properly, we can actually deliver a higher level of care to patients. I’d rather have us fit them with a device we’ve vetted, where we know the company, its service agreement, and reliability, than have them go out and buy one elsewhere, try it and say, ‘Well, these don’t work,’ and walk away from hearing care.”