Following an executive order from the Biden administration promoting competition in the U.S. economy, the FDA and several food retailers are working to make hearing aids available over the counter and without a prescription. The FDA’s final rule now allows adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids at a retail store or online without a prescription, exam or fitting.
According to a White House fact sheet, hearing aids will be available at a price point thousands of dollars below what they previously cost. Nearly 30 million Americans have hearing loss, including nearly 10 million people under the age of 60.
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Walgreens is working with Lexie Hearing to make hearing aids available over the counter in its stores nationwide for $799 per pair, with comparable models sold by specialists ranging from $2,000 to $8,000 a pair. Customers can also purchase them online through Walgreens Find Care for $39 per month for 24 months.
“Walgreens is committed to breaking down barriers to offer convenient access to affordable health and wellness solutions,” said Luke Rauch, SVP and chief merchandising officer at Walgreens. “Together with Lexie Hearing, we are making it easy for customers nationwide to purchase high-quality hearing aids directly from their neighborhood Walgreens, both online and in-store.”
Walmart, meanwhile, will offer over-the-counter hearing aids ranging from $199 to $999 per pair, with several options, including top brands like Lexie powered by Bose and HearX. These will initially be available at Walmart.com and Walmart Vision Centers in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, as well as 474 Sam's Club Hearing Aid Center locations, with a nationwide rollout to follow.
“A person’s ‘whole health’ is a combination of many factors, including hearing, that influence physical and mental well-being,” said Dr. John Wigneswaran, chief medical officer at Walmart. “Offering easy access to OTC hearing aids — something that seems quite small — is a solution that can improve our customer’s health outcomes and their ability to live better and healthier.”
CVS will start selling over-the-counter hearing aids on its website with varying options on model and price point, and will have them available at select pharmacy locations beginning in November. Additionally, Hy-Vee will sell over-the-counter hearing aids online and in 34 locations across Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, moving toward availability in 100 locations by the end of the year.
Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which operates nearly 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Walmart has more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 46 banners in 24 countries. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100, while Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health is No. 7 and West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee is No. 30.