Over-the-counter hearing aids are coming to a pharmacy near you. Here’s what you need to know

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – By the end of October, you’ll be able to purchase hearing aids in a pharmacy like Walgreens or CVS. Electronic retailers like Best Buy will also have some in stores.

They’re already popping up online, too.

So it begs the question...

Are they cheaper?

Yes, despite costing up to $300, these are hundreds or thousands of dollars cheaper than some prescription devices.

Jana Austin with Allison Audiology in Memorial City said to think of over-the-counter hearing aids like reading glasses that you can buy at the pharmacy. Although some people need a prescription, others may need something as simple as an over-the-counter (OTC) option.

Who should get OTC hearing aids?

“If you’re a person with mild to moderate hearing loss and situational difficulties that you’re having with your hearing, an over-the-counter option would be great,” Austin said.

Those situational needs can include:

  • Large, group meetings that are a little more difficult to understand
  • During times of worship, the speaker isn’t as clear as you’d like

Who should get a prescription hearing aid?

You may need a prescription-strength hearing aid if:

  • If others make comments about misunderstandings
  • The TV is too loud
  • Coworkers seem to mumble
  • It’s harder to separate speech from background noise

Austin said even if you know your situation is mild, it still doesn’t necessarily mean you need a hearing aid.

She said to start with an ENT or audiologist appointment to make sure your struggle is truly linked to hearing loss. Sometimes, she said, it can be earwax buildup.

If your hearing is mildly impacted, then ask if a device is right for you.

She said of both types of devices, one is not superior or inferior to the other, they are designed and intended for different purposes and needs.