WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new FDA rule will allow people to get hearing aids without prescriptions but a local nonprofit that helps people who are deaf or have hearing loss has some advice for people before they rush to the stores.  

At the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services, a nonprofit with locations across Pennsylvania, including this one here in Erie, they go above and beyond to help deaf people and people with hearing loss.  

“We provide programs for intellectually disabled deaf adults, we have interpreting services, which is how a lot of people know us because we provide sign language and now foreign language interpreters as well,” said Amy Hart, President and CEO of HDS. “In Pittsburgh we have an audiologist, we have an assistive device center so that if people need to amplify telephones, flashing smoke detectors, things like that we can get for them.”  

According to the FDA, close to 30 million U.S. adults could benefit from using a hearing aid but few can afford to pay for exams and prescription hearing aids and most insurance plans don’t cover them. Recently, a new FDA ruling could remedy that. The ruling would allow people to buy them over the counter at pharmacies and stores without having to be examined by a doctor first. But the HDS said they’re a little concerned with the new ruling 

“It's always great when people can get assistive devices they need,” said Hart. “What we see with people who go to an audiologist is if they find the hearing aid and it doesn’t work exactly right, they throw them in a drawer and they say hearing aids don’t work for me and that’s kind of our fears that will happen. People go over the counter there’s not enough known yet about if these aids will be able to deal with different types of hearing loss, because hearing loss is very individualized.”  

So even with this new ruling, HDS encourages people to at least get a baseline audio-gram, which is the result of a hearing test, before you buy hearing aids.  

“That will tell them where their hearing loss is or is not and even if they’re buying their hearing aid over the counter, at least they’ll know what type of aid they need to help their personal specific hearing loss,” said Hart.   

This rule applies to adults ages 18 and up with mild to moderate hearing loss. President Biden said people can start buying these hearing aids over the counter as early as mid-October.