Gundersen experts urge caution as FDA approves over-the-counter hearing aids

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Nearly 30 million Americans ages 12 and older are impacted by hearing loss. Hearing aids are often used to help treat some hearing loss and soon they will be available online and in retail stores.

The sounds of a card game come through a device connected to Kathleen Volden’s ear.

Volden has been wearing hearing aids for the past three years.

“Well, I knew for a long time I needed them, but you know, those are the kind of things you put off,” she said.

Hearing aids help amplify sound for a person struggling with hearing loss.

“Basis for helping a hearing aid work appropriately is having a good audio gram or mapping basically, of your hearing loss,” said Angela Manke, an audiologist at Gundersen Health System.

They can cost anywhere from $1,000 up to $8,000.

“They’re quite expensive but for me, it was worth that expense not to have, to worry about, okay what if something goes wrong with these, what am I gonna do?” Volden said.

Under the FDA’s new approval, people over the age of 18 with mild to moderate hearing loss can buy hearing aids on-line and at their local store.

“Kind of be that first entry level or entry into the hearing aid world,” Manke said.

The FDA hopes by removing a prescription, the cost of hearing aids will decrease, but Manke disagrees.

“Patients will hear the stories of $6,000, $7,000, $8,000 dollar hearing aids and most hearing aids don’t need to be that costly,” she said.

Manke says hearing aids require counseling and adjustment from an expert – things that may not be available over the counter.

“They don’t have that additional oversight of a professional to help them in that process,” she said.

Manke is also concerned patients could ignore a bigger issue. She says hearing loss can be a symptom of a larger health issue.

“Patients may delay medical care thinking its just hearing loss,” Manke said.

Over the counter hearing aids should never be used by children. Manke says people should have an ear exam before purchasing over the counter hearing aids.

As for Volden, the sound of victory – has never been sweeter.

“It really is kind of a life changing event,” she said.

Recent News Headlines from News 8 Now 

Bangor School District board puts facility referendum on November ballot 

Car hauler catches fire, closes West Salem I-90 exit ramp 

Delta reduces flights out of La Crosse Regional Airport 

Monroe Co. homicide suspect unable to find an attorney