Until recently, the process and cost of obtaining hearing aids has been a barrier for many patients. In fact, an estimated 30 million U.S. adults could benefit from hearing aids, but only 1 in every 5 are using them. This significant gap in care led the FDA to develop regulations for a new category of hearing aids that are available over the counter. The new devices provide greater access and more affordable options for individuals 18 and older with perceived mild-to-moderate hearing loss. OTC hearing aids cost considerably less, are self-fitting and designed to help amplify specific frequencies of sound, including voices. This improves conversations and dialog comprehension for impacted individuals. OTC hearing aids provide pharmacies with a way to not only increase their front-end sales but better care for their patients as well. As with any new product or service, it’s important for pharmacies to have a plan to incorporate these devices into their store and assist patients.
Here’s are 5 OTC hearing aid tips for pharmacies:
1. Know the signs/symptoms of mild-to-moderate hearing loss.
The new FDA guidelines outline some common indicators to watch for, including:
• Difficulty distinguishing between similar-sounding words.
• Difficulty following one-on-one conversations when there is background noise.
• Having to ask people to repeat themselves.
• Leaning in during a conversation to hear better.
Pharmacists should also be aware of certain risk factors, such as occupation and family history, which may make an individual more susceptible to hearing loss.
2. Explain the options.
After evaluating the patient, pharmacists should outline their recommendation and, if appropriate, help the patient select an OTC hearing device. When reviewing the OTC options, pharmacists should consider the individual’s needs and preferences and educate patients on each device’s features.
In some cases, OTC hearing aids may not be appropriate, like instances where the hearing loss may be caused by factors that would require medical treatment and/or a hearing test first. To help, the FDA has established eligibility requirements for OTC hearing devices as well. For example, if any of the following factors are present, the patient should be directed to follow up with their primary physician and/or an audiologist before a hearing aid is dispensed:
• Ear pain or discomfort
• Sudden or worsening hearing loss
• A history of excessive ear wax build-up
• Suspicion that something is in the ear canal
• Any recent drainage from the ear
• Episodes of dizziness/vertigo with hearing loss
• Ringing in only one ear, or a noticeable difference in hearing between each ear
For this reason, the pharmacy should establish a relationship with a local audiologist. This way they can refer patients who may have underlying health concerns that require attention. To find audiologists nearby, pharmacies can use online resources like the “Find an Audiologist” site, which is managed by the American Academy of Audiology. Continue Reading >>