The Food and Drug Administration moved on Tuesday to make hearing aids available over the counter and without a prescription to adults, a long-sought wish of consumers frustrated by expensive exams and devices.
As soon as mid-October, people with mild to moderate hearing loss should be able to buy hearing aids online and in retail stores, without being required to see a doctor for an exam to get a prescription.
The F.D.A. cited studies estimating that about 30 million Americans experience hearing loss, but only about one-fifth of them get help. The changes could upend the market, which is dominated by a relatively small number of manufacturers, and make it a broader field with less costly, and perhaps, more innovative designs. Current costs for hearing aids, which tend to include visits with an audiologist, range from about $1,400 at Costco to roughly $4,700 elsewhere.
“This could fundamentally change technology,” said Nicholas Reed, an audiologist at the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We don’t know what these companies might come up with. We may literally see new ways hearing aids work, how they look.”
The F.D.A.’s final…