PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The way consumers shop for hearing aids is about to change.
A new federal rule goes into effect in October so you can get them without spending a fortune or seeing a doctor. Consumer Reports has tips on how to pick the right ones for you.
Judi Mayer has been dealing with hearing loss for the past few years.
"Asking people to repeat themselves was the key to, ok, I can't hear you. I have hearing loss" she said.
To give people like Mayer better access to affordable hearing aids, Congress passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which finally goes into effect in October.
"Consumers will be able to buy hearing aids from the stores, online, without needing the intervention of an audiologist or a doctor," said Catherine Roberts of Consumer Reports.
That could save people hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.
When you're shopping for hearing aids, there are some important questions you should ask. Like, what is the return policy? Since it can take time to adjust to a new pair, CR says make sure you can try them out for at least a few weeks.
Also, check out their features. Do they have replaceable or rechargeable batteries? Are they sweat or water-resistant?
And, will they pair to your smartphone via Bluetooth? Do they have a telecoil, which lets you tap directly into assistive listening systems at large events?
The FDA rule also standardizes features for hearing aids. For example, all OTC hearing aids must allow users to adjust the volume. You may think that's an obvious feature, but you'd be surprised by what's available.
"I ordered a pair off the internet. They worked fine except you couldn't adjust them," said Mayer.
After trying out several pairs, Mayer is happy to be hearing again.
"I guess hearing loss affects your life because you miss out on a lot. You don't realize what you have lost until all of a sudden you can hear it."
CR says not all hearing aids will be available over the counter under these new rules. People with severe hearing loss and those under 18 will still need to see a medical professional for a prescription to get hearing aids.
Federal Register on over-the-counter hearing aids