Walmart announced Monday that for the first time, its customers can shop without a prescription and a medical exam by a doctor.
The move comes shortly after the US Food and Drug Administration announced long-awaited rule changes regarding hearing aids in August.
Instead of getting a prescription, visiting a hearing healthcare professional and having a custom fitting, people with mild to moderate hearing loss can buy hearing aids directly in store or online.
OTC hearing aids are available to Walmart shoppers in the U.S. who are 18 years of age or older and have “diagnosed mild to moderate hearing loss without a medical exam or fitting by an audiologist.”
Walmart ( WMT ) said hearing aid prices range from $199 to $999 per pair, including brands such as Lexie Bose ($849 to $999) and HearX ($199 to $299).
“Providing easy access to OTC headphones, something that seems relatively small, is a solution that can improve our customers’ health outcomes and ability to live better, healthier lives,” said Dr. John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s Chief Medical Officer. statement
The retailer said shoppers can now purchase OTC hearing aids on Walmart.com and at Walmart Vision Centers in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
It plans to make it available to additional Walmart Vision Centers nationwide soon. Today the company has more than 3,000 Vision Centers across the country.
An estimate 1 in 8 people in the US over the age of 12 has hearing loss in both ears, and the rate increases significantly with age. A quarter of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and this reaches 50% around the age of 75.
The FDA said its rule change would make hearing aids much more accessible and much more affordable across the country.
The agency estimates that the new rule could result in savings of about $2,800 per pair. Most private insurances do not cover hearing aids, which are not cheap.
On average, people spend at least $4,000 out-of-pocket for two ear devices, according to a 2020 study published in JAMA.
– CNN’s Carma Hassan and Jen Christensen contributed to this story.