Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, devices often costing thousands of dollars. But now, a bill making its way through congress could help provide some financial relief.

The new bill cosponsored by Suncoast Congressman Vern Buchanan would make hearing aids available for sale Over the Counter at your local pharmacy and Big Box retailers, potentially driving down the price.

“We have 145 thousand people with hearing loss just in Sarasota and Manatee County, three million in Florida,” Richard Williams said. “Over 100 thousand of those people don’t hear your TV show too well, they have to turn it up, because they don’t want to spend the money or take the time to get a hearing aid.”

Hearing Loss Association of Sarasota and Manatee County’s Richard Williams says 80-87% of people with hearing loss don’t see a doctor or get a hearing device, and Buchanan’s bill could help make devices more affordable.

“This would be an ability to go to a retail store,” Williams said. “And for a very small price, get some hearing aids that would boost their hearing. They would not be perfectly designed like they would with an audiologist, but it’s an underserved market because of price.”

Director of Research at the Silverstein Institute Dr. Jack Wazen says the over the counter devices would primarily treat patients with mild to moderate hearing loss.

“Routine, normal, garden variety hearing loss is part of aging,” Dr. Wazen said. “It tends to be bilateral, meaning both ears; it tends to be at the same time. So those are not problematic types of hearing losses.”

Patients with severe or abnormal hearing loss should still see a doctor.

“Hearing loss that is on one side,” Dr. Wazen said. “Or if the hearing is not symmetrical, that should light up a warning sign that says something is not right, I need to get checked.”

Dr. Wazen says the bill could also help raise awareness of hearing loss and encourage hearing checks.

“Hearing loss is important to diagnose and to treat,” Dr. Wazen said. “It has bearing not only on the person’s capability, but also on their productivity, on society and on their brain health.”

The bill currently has bipartisan support in both the house and senate.