From Rx to OTC

HLAA Executive Director Barbara Kelley
Barbara Kelley
Executive Director
Hearing Loss Association of America

By Barbara Kelley, Executive Director, Hearing Loss Association of America
Follow Barbara on Twitter, @Bkelley_HLAA.

Drugs that make the jump from prescription to Over-the-Counter (OTC)—known as the “Rx-to-OTC switch”—go through a data-driven, scientifically robust evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Medicines that make this switch must demonstrate efficacy as well as a broad margin of safety. Many of the common drugs you once could only get with a prescription are now available over the counter, such as Voltaren, a topical gel that treats arthritis pain, and many allergy medications, such as Flonase and Zyrtec.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association website states, “As more prescription allergy medicines have switched to OTC, there has been a clear shift toward these more convenient and affordable options. … OTC medicines provide access 24/7 to conveniently available health care options for busy families and caregivers. … The availability of OTC medicines — off the shelf, without a prescription — provides symptomatic relief for an estimated 60 million people who otherwise would not seek treatment. … OTC medicines empower individuals and families to meet their everyday health care needs.”

While hearing aids are not drugs or gels, a similar approach is happening with over-the-counter hearing aids. The FDA published its proposed rule for hearing aids to be sold over the counter to adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. HLAA responded to the proposed rule, as did many other organizations, industry and individuals. You can read the HLAA comments here.

What does this mean for consumers? It means that those who have a self-perceived mild or moderate hearing loss can be empowered to seek treatment that you might otherwise put off until it has progressed. Some people need a little hearing enhancement from time to time in meetings or in restaurants. Some people aren’t ready to take the step to engage with a hearing care professional, which of course, is a good step, but we know that 80% of people who could be helped with hearing aids don’t get them for one reason or another. People generally want to do things on their own time clock, in their own comfort zones. Maybe this option meets some people where they are ready to take a small step.

Hearing health is an important part of overall health so, let’s see how this goes. Let’s hope with hearing devices in stores for all to see, some of the stigma is reduced about giving them a try. Let’s hope we see innovation in technology. Hearing loss can be progressive, especially after the age of 65. If we get someone to seek care early to maintain those important human connections, they most likely will end up in the good care of a hearing health professional.

At any age, any stage in the hearing health journey, it’s important to Hear Well. Stay Vital.

Let’s keep saying ‘yes’ to the future!

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