On the Horizon: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?
A study from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, published in JAMA, suggests that over-the-counter hearing assistance devices—called personal sound amplification products (PSAP)—are nearly as effective for people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss as conventional hearing aids that cost thousands of dollars more.
Although PSAP devices are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Congress is considering legislation that would allow them to be marketed as direct-to-consumer products subject to FDA regulation. Currently, hearing aids must be purchased through a licensed hearing specialist, but according to advocates of the proposed legislation, results of this new study support development of a new regulatory classification for hearing aids.
The study involved 42 people between the ages of 60 and 85. The sound amplification devices improved speech understanding comparable to hearing aids. However, because the study was conducted by audiologists in a controlled environment—an auditory clinic—it is not yet known if similar results can be achieved by people with hearing loss in a real-world setting.