Are you wondering when Canada will start selling over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids?
In the U.S. the FDA recently approved the sale of OTC hearing aids. Americans can now buy hearing aids online, at drug stores and pharmacies, and other local retailers without a professional fitting from an audiologist or other hearing professional. As part of this, Americans can purchase OTC hearing aids for as low as $100 USD per ear, although the quality may vary.
Currently, the price of hearing aids in Canada can range from $1,000 to $4,000 CAD per ear, depending on the type and style of hearing aid and the severity of your hearing loss. For now, you must have a hearing professional diagnose you with a hearing loss before you can purchase a hearing aid or receive hearing aid financial assistance.
Read more: Why are hearing aids so expensive?
Will over-the-counter hearing aids be available in Canada?
Not anytime soon. It is possible for Canada to approve OTC hearing aids in the future, but this would take years to finalize. It took five years from proposal to final rule in the U.S. before retailers could sell OTC hearing aids.
Plus, as with hearing aid financial assistance, the Canadian government would have to approve OTC hearing aids at both the federal and provincial level. So, even if Canada approved OTC hearing aids, access could vary depending on the province or territory you live in.
The difference in hearing aid prices may tempt some Canadians to travel across the border to purchase OTC hearing aids. However, before taking that trip, you should carefully weigh the pros and cons—especially if you are buying hearing aids from a different country.
Who should not use over-the-counter hearing aids?
OTC hearing aids are not for everyone. According to the FDA, you should not use OTC hearing aids if:
Questions to ask
If you decide to purchase OTC hearing aids, consider the following:
Return policies – Hearing aids are not typically a one-size-fits-all solution. Although OTC hearing aids cost less than prescription hearing aids, they are still hundreds of dollars. You should check the return policy for an OTC hearing aid—especially if you are going to another country to get them.
Set up – Some OTC hearing aids may be adjustable with smartphone apps. Make sure you understand how to set up and operate your OTC hearing aids to get the most out of them.
Battery type and life – Consider your lifestyle and whether the OTC hearing aid is appropriate. For example, if you have dexterity issues, you may benefit from the rechargeable variety.
Customer support – With prescription hearing aids, ongoing support from a hearing professional is crucial to getting the most out of your hearing aids. Consider whether there is similar support for OTC hearing aids should you have any issues.
What is the difference between sound amplifiers and hearing aids?
The American regulations on OTC hearing aids do not apply to personal sound amplifiers.
Sound amplifiers have been available in Canada for years. Unlike hearing aids, which are fine-tuned to the wearer, sound amplifiers boost all sound frequencies.
You can use sound amplifiers for hunting. bird watching or listening to a public speaker. They do not treat hearing loss.
Do you think you may have hearing loss? Take our online hearing screening
Our online hearing questionnaire can give you some insight into your hearing health and what your next steps should be. Only a hearing professional can provide a hearing loss diagnosis to make you eligible for hearing aids in Canada.
An online hearing assessment is also a useful tool if you think you could benefit from OTC hearing aids.