CVS closes hearing centers as FDA readies rules for over-the-counter sales of hearing aids

Health, Fitness & Food

CVS Health is closing its roughly 30 hearing centers as it experiments with new store formats and federal regulators write new rules that will allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter.

first reported the news.

CVS is pivoting ahead of changes that could reshape the hearing aid market. Next year, the FDA will introduce regulations to allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter, eliminating the need for CVS to dedicate space in stores for audiologists to conduct hearing tests and fit people for the devices.

The company is experimenting with new store formats as its core drugstore business faces pressure from online companies like Amazon. It’s piloting HealthHUBs, which offer more health services like blood pressure testing and yoga classes.

“The FDA is preparing to approve lower-cost, over- the-counter hearing devices in the near future, and new technology is emerging to enable self-serve hearing testing and care,” Pensa said.

Currently, people must undergo an exam a licensed professional in order to buy hearing aids. Congress in 2017 required the FDA to develop regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids in a bid to make them more affordable and thereby more accessible.

The law requires the FDA to draft its regulations by 2020, though actually implementing them may take longer.

There are no currently no FDA-approved products that can be sold over the counter. The FDA in October approved Bose hearing aids that are self-fitting but are considered direct to consumer but not over the counter, meaning they are subject to federal and state regulations dictating how they can be sold.

Amplifiers are not subject to the same requirements, meaning they can be purchased in stores. CVS sells eight of these products at its HealthHUB stores in Houston, Texas, Pensa said. Prices range from $40 to $500.

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