Thanks to changes in the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulations on the sale of hearing aid devices, Best Buy
Best Buy will begin offering 10 different hearing aid devices at 300 of its 1,000 retail locations as early as mid-October. The company says it's also offering an online hearing assessment for customers. While Best Buy is known for its sound devices, this will be the company's first time selling hearing aids.
"Our expansion of the hearing collection and new store experience will let customers easily find a hearing loss solution from brands they trust," Best Buy's category officer, Frank Bedo, said in a statement.
Best Buy says that customers can check with their insurance provider to learn if hearing aid devices from the retailer are covered on their plan.
Prior to August 16, the FDA didn't allow the over-the-counter sales of hearing aid devices, but will now make exceptions for devices meant to assist with mild to moderate hearing loss.
The mid-level devices will still be regulated by the FDA, but they will now be much easier to access. The FDA also expects this new rule to help reduce the price of hearing aids across the board. However, consumers will still need to get a prescription for hearing aids meant for more severe hearing loss or hearing loss in patients under 18.
"Giving people with mild to moderate hearing loss access to affordable hearing aids is an important step to ensure their health and quality of life," the American Association of Retired Persons's (AARP) executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer, Nancy LeaMond, said.
"For many Americans, the high cost of prescription hearing aids puts them out of reach, increasing their risk of isolation, depression and other health issues. Today's rule could help millions," Leamond continued.
According to AARP, 15% of all Americans report some form of hearing difficulty, impacting roughly 37.5 million people. The organization added that hearing aids can cost from $1,000 to $6,000 and most forms of insurance don't cover that expense. That high price helps explain why 80% of those who could benefit from using a hearing aid don't wear one, according to the National Health Institute.
The FDA is adjusting the rule as a part of the Biden administration's goal to expand "access to high-quality health care and lowering health care costs for the American public," the agency wrote in its announcement. Specifically, President Joe Biden's Promoting Competition in the American Economy executive order asked the FDA to allow the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids within 120 days.
This executive order builds on 2017 bipartisan legislation that also called on the agency to introduce regulations allowing the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids. A plan to meet that requirement "was not fully implemented until now", according to the FDA.
"Reducing health care costs in America has been a priority of mine since Day One and this rule is expected to help us achieve quality, affordable health care access for millions of Americans in need," said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services. "Today's action by the FDA represents a significant milestone in making hearing aids more cost-effective and accessible."