Hearing aids, the main way to treat age-related hearing loss, are expensive.
On top of that, people often don’t want to wear them.
And the market is growing as boomers’ hearing starts to fade, according to a recent story on NextAvenue.org. Hearing loss affects about 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74, and nearly half of those older than 75, NIH statistics show.
Most people are reluctant to admit they have a hard time hearing, said Dr. Justin S. Golub, an ear, nose and throat doctor at Columbia University Medical Center.
Golub told journalists at Columbia’s 2021 Age Boom Academy in early May that age-related hearing loss comes on slowly, so there’s an element of denial.
The stigma associated with wearing hearing aids and the cost — as much as $8,000 for a top-of-the-line pair — are holding people back, he said.
That could be about to change. Congress passed legislation in 2017 allowing manufacturers to sell hearing aids directly to consumers, without a prescription from an audiologist, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to issue draft regulations on safety and effectiveness in the next year or so.
Already, companies are releasing earbuds that boost or filter sounds and hearing-aid manufacturers are refining their offerings.
Apple AirPods, while not hearing aids, have a “transparency mode” that lets users adjust amplification settings, and there are settings on Apple devices that allow customized audio settings.
The AirPods Pro version retails for $250. The company wouldn’t comment on plans for future products.
Bose says its recently released $850 SoundControl Hearing Aids are the first to be cleared by the FDA for direct sale to consumers.
Designed for mild to moderate hearing loss, they’re programmed through an app so users can adjust settings. They’re available in five states to start (Massachusetts, Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas), and the company plans to sell them nationwide.
Insurance may not cover over-the-counter hearing aids, but people might be able to tap their health savings accounts for reimbursement.