The legislation, introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would allow some hearing aids for people with mild and moderate hearing loss to be sold over the counter at local drugstores. The bill would eliminate many of the complex restrictions that currently require examinations and fittings by an audiologist.
"Our chief concern is that people with hearing loss get help for hearing loss, and this could go a long way to that," said Nancy Macklin of the Hearing Loss Association of America.
Medicare and most insurance plans don't cover hearing aids. Out-of-pocket costs for a single hearing aid currently average around $2,400.
"If you can buy non-prescription reading glasses over the counter, it makes sense that you should be able to buy basic, safe hearing aids, too," said Sen. Grassley.
The group that represents audiologists, the people who test and fit patients with hearing aids, has not taken an official stance on the bill yet.
The Academy of Doctors of Audiology has expressed concerns in the past that consumers should be examined by an audiologist or doctor before using any hearing aid.