Hearing aids are now available over the counter for the first time in the United States. They’re on sale at places like Walgreens and Walmart, and companies like Sony have already developed new hearing aids for this new regulatory turn.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the rule change allowing over-the-counter hearing aids in August. They go into effect Monday, opening up cheaper and more accessible options to people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Prescription hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars a pair. In contrast, Walmart will offer over-the-counter hearing aids at a price point ranging from $199–$999 per pair. “Offering easy access to OTC hearing aids — something that seems quite small — is a solution that can improve our customer’s health outcomes and their ability to live better and healthier,” John Wigneswaran, chief medical officer at Walmart, said in a statement.
Sony developed two new over-the-counter hearing aids in partnership with the company WS Audiology. Sony said in a press release last week that the first would be available “this month” for $999.99 (as of publication, it’s not yet available on the company’s website) and that the second would be on sale “this winter.”
Other headphone makers also make hearing aids, and the new over-the-counter rules give tech companies even more opportunities to break into this space. Nearly 30 million Americans have some kind of hearing loss — a big potential market.