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What to know before buying over-the-counter hearing aids

(CNN) – Millions of Americans suffering from hearing loss can now get hearing aids online or in stores.

A new rule from the FDA allowing the devices to be sold without a prescription goes into effect today, but experts say you need to keep some things in mind if buying a hearing aid over the counter.

”The average cost of a pair of hearing aids in the past was about $4,500. So to put that in perspective, that means for the average American, a pair of hearing aids is the third largest material purchase after a house and a car,” Dr. Frank Lin, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, said.

For the first time, these devices can be sold from a store or online, making them more affordable. Americans don’t have to visit a hearing health professional or have a custom fitting for these devices, which brings the cost down.

But health experts say there are some things to keep in mind. Doctors say you should get your hearing tested before heading to a store to test your hearing levels. It will help determine whether your hearing loss is caused by a condition that may not require a hearing aid, like wax buildup.

Next, you should know about the device you are trying to buy. Experts say a return policy is crucial.

The FDA rule says the policy has to be plainly stated on the packaging, but extended return policies are up to the stores.

You should also the product’s warranty to see whether it covers maintenance and repairs.

And look for the words “O-T-C or over-the-counter hearing aid” on the package. Experts say if the product’s packaging doesn’t say that, then it is not an FDA-regulated device.

“By the market opening up now, there’s a lot of opportunity for companies to meet consumers where they are, rather than where we want them to be, which is what the model previously dictated,” Lin said.

Experts urge anyone with questions to get in touch with an audiologist for guidance.

And while over-the-counter hearing aids are a great option for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, experts say for others with more severe hearing loss, prescription hearing aids are still the only option.

People under the age of 18 will also need a prescription.

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