State of the Industry: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

It’s no secret that over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids have been on hearing professionals’ radars for a while. The 2017 Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act tasked the FDA with creating a new class of government-regulated hearing aids that would be available to consumers without a prescription. After significant delays, the FDA has made significant progress in accomplishing that goal in the last several months

The FDA-proposed OTC Hearing Aid Rule comment period ended January 18, 2022, and 180 days after that, the FDA will draft the final language around OTC hearing aid regulations. In short, the opportunity to get OTC hearing aids into people’s ears will be here before you know it.

Nervous About OTC? Don’t Be.

Deciding whether to incorporate OTC hearing aids into your practice is up to you. At Fuel, we believe OTC aids aren’t something to fear; they’re something to embrace.

Since we’re all in the business of helping people hear their best, we should applaud opportunities to enhance their communication abilities—and welcome the many individuals who aren’t currently wearing hearing aids but need them into the hearing health market.

By offering these new patients the choice of a few well-vetted OTC hearing aids at your practice, you’ll be able to connect with them early in their hearing health care journey and serve as a trusted resource for their future care. Plus, since you don’t just sell hearing aids, you’ll also be there to assist them with other hearing health concerns that may arise.

It’s important to note that an OTC product may work for certain patients today, but traditional hearing devices will most likely be more appropriate for them in the future. As their established hearing health care provider, you’re the one these patients will turn to you when it’s time to upgrade.

Every Practice Needs an OTC Hearing Aid Plan

When we say, “every practice,” we mean it. Even if you’re confident you don’t want to offer OTC aids as a hearing solution, you still need a plan for what to do when patients come to you seeking these devices.

Getting started on your plan now is one of the best things you can do for your business. When you have a guide for how you’re going to handle OTC aids in place well before they’re readily available, you can meet your patients’ needs more easily and save yourself the unnecessary stress of scrambling to figure it all out at the last minute.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Do you want to offer OTC aids? If you do, great, read on. If you don’t, you’ll still need to think about how you’ll respond to patients interested in OTC options.
  • Which OTC aids will you carry? Many OTC options will be available as companies fight for space in the market. They’ll include in-the-ear, over-the-ear and around-the-neck styles. You’ll want to ensure the OTC aids you do offer meet the following criteria:
  • They enhance communication for the patient.
  • They are user friendly for the patient.
  • They offer good margins for your bottom line.
  •  They provide on-line or telephone support for the patient.
  • How will you market OTC aids? Will you include them on your practice’s website? What marketing channels will you use? And what’s your marketing strategy to help establish an ongoing relationship with your OTC patients, ensuring that they’ll return to your practice for their hearing health needs?
  • How should you and your staff talk to patients about OTC aids? Consistency matters—making sure everyone on your team uses a similar talk track (messaging) when discussing OTC aids with patients is crucial.

Creating your OTC hearing aid plan will take time—something that’s in short supply these days for busy hearing professionals. That’s why enlisting the expertise of Fuel to help you develop an effective, patient-focused and profitable plan makes the most sense.

Did You Know?

Since 2015, Fuel has been attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Attending CES annually allows Fuel to maintain a forward looking approach to hearing and healthcare technology. Each year we meet with scores of start-ups and established companies working to bring innovative solutions to our industry. Being proactive has enabled us to build a broad base of knowledge on the players and technology impacting OTC hearing devices, allowing us to screen the available options and recommend only the best to our members.

Set Your Practice Up for Success

With Fuel by your side, you’ll have access to our team of industry experts to do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to all things OTC. Trying to decide which OTC aids to offer? Our audiologists will rigorously test several models using the criteria listed above and provide you with our top three recommendations. Need a comprehensive OTC aid marketing campaign? Our marketing team can create results-driven print and digital solutions tailored to your unique brand. Need a plan to price the product and services? Your regional team will help you create a pricing strategy that makes sense for your bottom line.  Want to make sure your entire staff is on the same page when talking to patients about OTC products? Our professional development team is here to help get everyone on track.

Remember: Every practice needs an OTC hearing aid plan to position themselves effectively in the changing hearing health market. Craft yours with the help of Fuel today.

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