Words like “hip,” “cool,” and “fashionable” probably don’t make you think about hearing aids, but a new wave of tech companies is looking to shake up the way hearing aids are created, sold, and marketed. With luck, you might even be able to one day pick them up at the pharmacy next to the reading glasses and breath mints. According to Doppler Labs’ Kristen “KR” Liu, who spoke with NPR, such devices could be “something that’s hip and cool,” to the extent that people will have “multiple pairs and it’s fashionable.”
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration regulates medical devices, including hearing aids, and doesn’t allow them to be sold over the counter. That may be changing though thanks to bipartisan (really!) legislation making its way through Congress, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which may have helped spur the FDA into action. In December, the agency announced that adults would no longer need to be medically evaluated before buying a hearing aid, according to NPR. That’s the first step to over-the-counter hearing aid purchases. It could clear the way for the more than 35 million Americans who have some degree of hearing loss to pick up a solution at the drug store, instead of hoping insurance will cover them or ponying up $5,000 for a pair.