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Hearing Aids May Soon Be Sold Over the Counter

When the words on the page get a little fuzzy, picking up a cheap pair of reading glasses is easy enough. But if you’re missing parts of conversations, it costs thousands of dollars to clear things up.

That could be changing soon, though, as the House of Representatives has passed legislation that would create a new class of hearing aids that could be sold over the counter without the need for a prescription.

That’s welcome news to the estimated 37.5 million Americans who have some form of hearing loss, many of whom choose to ignore it due to the cost of doctor’s appointments and the devices.

Today, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a pair of traditional hearing aids runs anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000. Over-the-counter devices, the group says, will cost a much more affordable $100 to $600.

The change is part of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, which the House passed Wednesday with a voice vote. The bill received widespread bipartisan support, but the Senate has yet to announce a timeline for holding a vote on the bill.

The arrival of over-the-counter hearing aids can’t come soon enough for a growing part of the population, though. As Baby Boomers age and Generation X hits middle age, the number of people with mild to moderate hearing loss is increasing rapidly.

40% of people older than 60 suffer from some form of hearing loss. That number jumps to more than 60% for people older than 70 years. And nearly 80% of people older than 80 years suffer from hearing loss. Medicare, meanwhile, does not cover hearing aids or exams.