(WKBN) – Millions of Americans have trouble hearing. The National Institutes of Health says 80% of people who would benefit from hearing aids don’t wear them.

“We’ll have patients come in here with 60% loss that don’t perceive a problem,” said Dr. Sheryl Figliano.

Figliano runs the six Centers For Hearing Care in the Mahoning Valley. She said research shows untreated hearing loss has health consequences, including a faster rate of cognitive decline.

The FDA is allowing for the purchase of over-the-counter hearing aids, starting next month. They’ve been on the market for years.

“I think the negative is, we don’t know what’s inside these products, and they don’t require a hearing test, so it would be like me putting your glasses on,” Figliano said.

That means in certain situations, like being around a lawnmower, the device could just get louder and possibly damage you ear.

Dr. Figliano believes a simple hearing test is important, before just putting something in your ear.

“We had two patients last week that came in that had been putting the appointment off. They weren’t hearing well; they had all this anxiety built up that they needed a hearing aid, and we cleaned their ears out, and the problem was solved,” Figliano said.

Hearing aids can be expensive. The over-the-counter models can be purchased without an exam, prescription or even a special fitting by an audiologist.

“If you feel as though that’s what I want to buy as something over the counter, tell us the product you’re looking at. Come and get a hearing test and let us at least tell you if it’s appropriate or not,” Figliano said.

The over-the-counter hearing aids may be less expensive, but look at the fine print and read the rules. Even if you return them, they may keep $500 as a restocking fee.