• January 26, 2023

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News the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will soon allow hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter is bringing an influx of new competition – including retailers looking to expand deeper into the healthcare business like Best Buy – into what promises to be a multi-billion-dollar market.

Already, retailers led by Walgreens, CVS Health, Walmart and Amazon have expanded into healthcare with hundreds more healthcare items and are expected to sell over-the-counter hearing aids this fall as well under new FDA rules. CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have in-person doctors and nurse practitioners in their stores and Amazon is spending nearly $4 billion on One Medical, which will bring the online retailer deeper into in-person healthcare.

But the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law this week by President Biden that bolsters health insurance coverage for more Americans under the Affordable Care Act along with the FDA decision to allow the sale of hearing aids to adults without a prescription further opens a potentially huge market for such medical devices.

“This fall, Best Buy is introducing a new experience for hearing devices, making it more convenient than ever for the millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss to get the products and support they need,” Best Buy said in a statement Wednesday morning. “The new experience will include an expanded collection of hearing devices, an in-store experience in more than 300 stores, and a new online hearing assessment tool.”

The cost of hearing aids, pegged at $5,000 by some estimates that include a consultation with doctors and audiologists, has discouraged a market of millions of Americans from buying these medical devices.


The FDA’s new rule will allow people with mild to moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids both online and in retail stores as early as October. The FDA estimated about 30 million Americans experience hearing loss, but only about one-fifth get treatment that includes hearing aids.

“Our expansion of the hearing collection and new store experience will let customers easily find a hearing loss solution from brands they trust,” Best Buy category officer Frank Bedo said. “Our customers come to us for quality tech products and expertise, and this fall we’ll be able to better help them find the right solutions specific to their needs.”

Although Best Buy didn’t disclose a price for hearing aids in its announcement Wednesday, the cost of hearing aids for Americans is expected to fall dramatically with a huge influx of retailers that will be selling them in stores and online. And the market includes new entrants like Best Buy that are touting their expertise in electronics to assist this new market of customers.

“The rule is expected to lower the cost of hearings aids, furthering the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of expanding access to high-quality health care and lowering health care costs for the American public,” the FDA said earlier this week. “It is designed to assure the safety and effectiveness of OTC hearing aids, while fostering innovation and competition in the hearing aid technology marketplace.”

Some analysts have said the new entrants to the market could also bring promising technologies that could change the market and improve patient care and health outcomes.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve offered hearing solutions; for years, we’ve had a collection of personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), self-fitting hearing devices, TV amplifiers, hearing protection devices and other accessories,” Best Buy said. “This fall, the collection will also include for the first time ever, the new FDA-regulated category of over-the-counter hearing devices to help perceived mild or moderate hearing loss from some of the most trusted brands in the space. Products available in the experience will include Lexie Hearing, Nuheara, Jabra Enhance Plus, Lucid Hearing fio and ENGAGE, Eargo 6, and more.”

Meanwhile, more established drugstore chains and companies in the retail healthcare space say they, too, will be ready to go with hearing aids and related products come this fall.

“Walgreens will offer over-the-counter hearing aids later this year nationwide, both in-store and online,” Walgreens said in a statement. “We are committed to providing consumers convenient access to health solutions and services, and we look forward to offering consumers high-quality hearing aids directly from their neighborhood Walgreens.”


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