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Hearing aids: No prescription needed

In August the Food and Drug Administration said people with mild to moderate hearing loss will be able to buy hearing aids without a prescription starting in mid-October. A new law creates a class of hearing aids that don’t require a medical exam, prescription or other special evaluations. Such requirements have long been barriers for many people needing hearing aids.

The change is expected to increase competition, innovation and access – and eventually lower costs. That can be especially important to the estimated 80 percent of people with hearing loss who don’t have hearings aids. Most insurance plans – including Medicare – don’t cover the cost of hearing aids, which can average about $4,700 per pair. That makes hearing aids the third largest purchase for most people, behind a house and a car.

The new over-the-counter law doesn’t apply to hearing aids for more severe hearing loss, which will remain prescription-only.

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