For years now, audiology has been anticipating over-the-counter hearing aids. Some are even dreading it. And while OTC hearing aids are likely to bring change to the industry, it’s not likely to be the change you’re expecting.
Here are some insights from our exclusive interviews with Gary Rosenblum, President of Oticon, and Karl Strom, Editor in Chief of Hearing Review.
OTC will not be a factor in 2021.
“The draft guidelines for the OTC law still have not been released,” says Rosenblum. “There is a public commentary period after it gets released, and then they develop the actual guidelines or regulations. Because of COVID, that has delayed everything related to the FDA’s work on the OTC law. So it’s a minimum of nine months before it becomes a reality, and it’s therefore unlikely that OTC will be a factor in 2021.”
Over-the-counter hearing aids will not substantially hurt the bottom line.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think OTC is going to change a lot for most hearing care professionals,” says Strom. “It’s designed to get people into amplification earlier, and that’ll make all of our jobs easier. It should widen the pie, make the pie bigger for everybody.”
“When OTC becomes a reality, I do not think that it will have a material effect on the traditional hearing aid business,” agrees Rosenblum. “OTC exists today. You can go [online], and you can get two hearing aids, not PSAPs, but you can get two hearing aids for $800. Or you can go to online sites that are illegally advertising over-the-counter hearing aids, and you can buy them.” Over the counter is, by definition, purchasing hearing aids with no healthcare professional involved, he says.
Rosenblum continues: “The fact that you can buy an over-the-counter [hearing aid] today and it hasn’t materially affected us means the real factor here is… the work that you guys do, that hearing care professionals do. The United States has the highest satisfaction rate and the highest pricing in the world, and yet it continues to thrive as a hearing aid industry.”
Hear more from Gary Rosenblum and Karl Strom, including how to manage third-party payers (and still meet your revenue goals).
Gary Rosenblum Video:
Karl Strom Video: