The news: Retailers such as Best Buy, CVS, and Walmart will sell hearing aids directly to consumers after the FDA created an over-the-counter category for the devices.
Why it matters: Hearing loss affects about 30 million people in the US, yet only 20% use hearing aids, according to the FDA. Even before the over-the-counter rule, the hearing aid industry was selling about 4 million devices a year, per the Hearing Industries Association (HIA).
The catch: Without insurance, hearing aids cost as much as $7,000, per the National Council on Aging, but prices should drop by about $2,800 a pair when the rule becomes official, the FDA said.
Retail hearing aids could affect health clinics like Audibel, which has in-person locations. However, we’ll still need audiologists to properly fit the devices and diagnose hearing impairment, as the HIA points out.
The opportunity: As prices come down, more consumers may buy hearing aids. The HIA gave a thumbs-up to the additional accessibility. “This is a significant step forward for the millions of Americans who suffer hearing loss yet are untreated,” Kate Carr, HIA president, said in a statement.
Analyst take: Retailers could benefit from the additional sales over-the-counter hearing devices could bring with a potential recession ahead.
Listen up, consumer wearable vendors: The new FDA rule also offers an opportunity for retailers and brands to innovate with hearing technology and other medical devices that are available directly to consumers.
What’s next? Companies could follow Apple and Samsung’s lead and incorporate features to amplify hearing. Wearables can do more to support the hearing impaired.
Go deeper: Check out our report on The Era of Uncertainty to explore what changes are ahead for digital businesses.
This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.