Morning Report

Can an OTC Hearing Device Substitute for a Hearing Aid?

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH


July 14, 2017

Hello. I'm Dr Arefa Cassoobhoy, a practicing internist, Medscape advisor, and senior medical director for WebMD. Welcome to Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

Hearing Aids vs Personal Sound Amplifiers

More than 80% of older adults with hearing loss don't wear hearing aids. One issue may be expense. They're not covered by Medicare and they can cost almost $5000 a pair.

Over-the-counter personal sound-amplification products are significantly cheaper. They're not approved for hearing loss, but that may change based on current national initiatives. So the question is, can they work as well as hearing aids?

The answer is, "It depends." A small study recently tested five of these devices in adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Devices were fitted and adjusted by an audiologist. Three of the models improved hearing accuracy to within 5 percentage points of a hearing aid. One improved hearing slightly, but the fifth model was worse than using nothing at all.

So, with the help of an audiologist, a carefully selected sound-amplification device could be an option for patients who choose not to purchase a conventional hearing aid.

For Medscape and WebMD, I'm Dr Arefa Cassoobhoy.

Follow Dr Cassoobhoy on Twitter at @ArefaMD


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