WASHINGTON - Millions of Americans in need of hearing aids can now buy them without a prescription in the United States — and likely at a much cheaper price.
Starting Monday, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy, and Hy-Vee are now offering over-the-counter hearing aids at stores and online, the White House said.
A new class of hearing aids was established under a rule finalized in August by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that doesn’t require a medical exam, a prescription, and other specialty evaluations. The devices are intended for adults with mild to moderate hearing problems.
The FDA estimates that nearly 30 million adults could potentially benefit from a hearing aid, though only about one-fifth of people with hearing problems currently use one.
Historically, the cost has been a big obstacle. Americans can pay more than $5,000 for a hearing aid, between the device and fitting services. Insurance coverage is limited and Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids, only diagnostic tests.
The FDA first proposed the rule in 2021 after years of pressure from medical experts and consumer advocates to make the devices cheaper and easier to get.
The new over-the-counter status won’t apply to devices for more severe hearing loss, which will remain prescription only, officials said.
Where to buy over-the-counter hearing aids
This new class of hearing aids, sold online and over-the-counter at pharmacies and retailers, is expected to increase competition and lower costs, officials said.
According to the White House, at least five retailers are now selling the devices in stores:
- Walgreens is selling hearing aids at stores nationwide and online for $799 per pair, the White House said, noting that comparable models at Walgreens sold by specialists range from $2,000 to $8,000.
- CVS is selling over-the-counter hearing aids on CVS.com, with varying options on model and price point, the White House said. CVS will also offer hearing aids in select CVS Pharmacy locations beginning in November.
- Walmart is offering an assortment of over-the-counter hearing aids on Walmart.com, SamsClub.com, and in over 1,000 Vision Centers in Walmart stores across Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, the White House said. In addition, 474 Sam’s Club Hearing Aid Center locations are also selling the devices. Available products will range in price from $199 to $999 per pair, while according to Walmart, comparable prescription hearing aids are priced at $4,400 to $5,500 per pair.
- Best Buy is selling nearly 20 different hearing devices online. By the end of October, it will offer hearing aids in nearly 300 stores across the U.S., the White House said. Devices will range in price between $200 and $3,000.
- Hy-Vee is selling over-the-counter hearing aids online and in 34 locations across Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, officials said. Hy-Vee plans to offer hearing aids in 100 locations by the end of 2022. Hy-Vee will offer four models ranging in price from $499.99 to $999.99.
This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.