Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

How to buy over-the-counter hearing aids

The effort to make hearing aids available as an over-the-counter purchase without having to get an examination or a prescription has been ongoing for years. In October 2022, that became a reality with a decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow an over-the-counter hearing aid market to open up, with certain restrictions for safety.

That’s a significant move for the roughly 25% of Americans between 65 and 74 who have hearing loss that impacts their daily life, a number that jumps dramatically at over age 75, according to the National Council on Aging. Over-the-counter hearing aids are an affordable alternative that could provide hearing benefits where none were possible before. Let’s look at how you can find and buy over-the-counter hearing aids.

Sony Hearing Aids.

What’s the difference between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids?

So why are over-the-counter hearing aids such a big deal over hearing aids that require a prescription? The difference can be summed up in a few important points:

  • Affordability: Over-the-counter hearing aids are a lot more affordable than their prescription counterparts. Prescription hearing aids can cost several thousand dollars or more, which puts them beyond the reach of those who don’t have insurance that will cover them. Over-the-counter models, on the other hand, typically start at around $800 to $1,000.
  • You don’t need a hearing exam: Over-the-counter hearing aids don’t require the same exams, fitting, prescriptions, or maintenance requirements as prescription models, which can also save a lot of time and money.
  • Availability: Over-the-counter hearing aid models are easier to find. You don’t have to go to a specialized hearing care clinic to purchase them. You can visit common retail websites and order them in just a few minutes if you want
  • Extra features: Over-the-counter hearing aids may come with extra features for consumer use — such as Bluetooth capabilities for connecting to devices for audio playback, and app accompaniment for further customization — that prescription models may not have.

Who are over-the-counter hearing aids for?

Over-the-counter hearing aid models are a bit more limited in what kind of hearing loss they can handle (their maximum sound output peak is limited compared to prescription hearing aids) and are aimed toward those with mild to moderate hearing loss, usually in adults 18 years and older. Those with more severe hearing loss should be seeking medical help and looking for prescription hearing aids instead.

Hearing aid or amplifier: what’s the difference?

Equate Digital Rechargeable Hearing Amplifier.

Choose a hearing aid or an amplifier. An amplifier simply boosts and relays nearby sounds so they can be heard more easily. They don’t have many other hearing aid features, and are only suitable for slight hearing loss. But they are much, much less expensive than true hearing aids, usually starting at around just $50, so it’s a way to save money.

Hearing aids start at several hundred dollars and can go up to a few thousand. They have more complete tuning, customization, amplification, treble and bass settings, and more. They’re a better fit for directly addressing hearing problems that are starting to interfere with daily life.

What types of over-the-counter hearing aids are available?

The Jabra Enhance Plus earbuds snap together magnetically.
Sandra Stafford / Digital Trends

Over-the-counter hearing aid models typically come in three different design options, each with their own advantages:

  • Earbud models: These look like traditional earbuds that you might buy from Sony, Jabra, Apple, or other brands — and some are even offered by the same companies. The advantage, of course, is that it looks like you’re just wearing normal earbuds, and like today’s wireless earbuds, they are very easy to charge and use as needed.
  • In-ear, low-profile models: These are designed to be as hidden as possible and are often available in skin colors to better mask them. The goal is to make it seem like they aren’t there at all. However, the small size typically means lower battery life and more limited use. They may also be more expensive.
  • Behind-the-ear models: These come with a tiny earbud that’s connected by wire to a larger component that rests behind the ear. This is a more complicated, unwieldy setup that’s much more noticeable. However, you get more battery power and generally better hearing features, so they tend to be a better pick for more moderate hearing loss.

How to get OTC hearing aids

First, arrange a hearing exam with your doctor. Wait, but you just said– we know, we know, you don’t technically need a hearing exam to buy over-the-counter hearing aids, and that’s one of the advantages. But if you think you have hearing loss and you haven’t talked about it with your doctor yet, you really need to. It’s important to get a hearing exam to judge the extent of your hearing loss, and if over-the-counter models are the right choice for you. A hearing specialist may even be able to recommend certain brands or stores to try.

Next, find a retailer’s site or store that has your preferred hearing aid in stock. We suggest heading online for this step. You’ll find a lot more options in stock, and you can use regular payment methods that you may have already set up. Popular stores include:

Once you have found a pair that you want, you can simply place them in your cart like any other purchase. There are no additional hoops you are required to jump through to buy them. Note that some models may only be available online, while others may not always be in stock, so remember to check the details as you check out.

Can over-the-counter hearing aids qualify for insurance coverage?

Insurance isn’t directly covering OTC hearing aids this time. However, many of the models are qualifying purchases for Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Savings Accounts, and other specialized accounts that you can use to help save money on taxes and gain other benefits.

What about the maintenance of over-the-counter hearing aids?

There is no counseling for caring for ovver-the-counter hearing aid models, so read the manual carefully. Fortunately, brands like Lexie already have guides on when and how to clean your hearing aids that will apply to over-the-counter models too. Don’t use any kind of water or cleaners on your hearing aids to avoid damage. For frequent cleaning, you may want to pick up a specialized tool.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
Crowdsourced and crowdfunded, Olive proposes itself as next-gen hearing aid
olive next gen hearing aid on table

Hearing aid costs and social perception stand in the way for many who need help with hearing impairment. Looking to help, Olive Union bills the Olive wireless earbud, with its $100 price tag and stylish design, as the "next-gen hearing aid with a social mission."

After ending an Indiegogo campaign with more than $320,000 from backers, 16 times more than its $20,000 flexible goal, the Olive appears to be as much a social statement as it is a digital device to help people hear better. Campaign backers will receive final versions of the Olive hardware with a beta version of the software in July and are asked to give the company feedback as a way to save the firm research and design costs leading up to the scheduled full product launch in December. Backers who were involved in the beta software will receive over-the-air (OTA) updates with the final software.

Read more
These smart hearing aids restore the beauty of music to those with hearing loss
halo 2 smartphone hearing aid aid2

There are plenty of issues associated with hearing loss, but modern technology aims to make it easier for the hearing impaired. Hearing aids have changed the lives of many people who were either born with some level of hearing loss or developed it over time. There is still, however, an issue with many hearing aids -- They aren't very accommodating for music-lovers.

Starkey Hearing Technologies developed a new hearing aid called the Halo 2 to process music for those with hearing loss.

Read more
Usually $120, these Sennheiser wireless headphones are on sale for $70
Ebay home learning sale - Sennheiser HD 350BT headphones

If you're a casual headphones user that still wants something of decent quality, the price tags can be scary. For something showing even decent levels of comfort and features the price tag usually climbs over $100. And so it is with the Sennheiser HD 350BT, which usually sit at $120. However, the rest of us can now enjoy the comfort that those willing to spring on the latest have had. While this deal lasts, you can pick up your own pair of comfy HD 350BTs for just $70. That's a savings of $50! So, pull up your chair, turn on the music, and tap the button below to get what the rest have been using for awhile now.

Why you should buy the Sennheiser HD 350BT
Sennheiser, a company that nearly always has something in our listing of the best headphones, created the HD 350BT with just a couple of things in mind. If you're familiar with the Beats headphones line, and we're sure you are, then the first objective won't surprise you; they wanted to create headphones with an intense sound profile, especially emphasizing a deep bass range. Secondly, they wanted to create a streamlined approach to headphones, using a simple and minimalist style so the average person can start using them right away without vast audiophile-level knowledge. For example, in the Sennheiser Smart Control App, you can choose between listening modes for music, news, podcasts, and films to suit your needs quickly and comfortably on the go.

Read more