As of Monday, October 17, millions of Americans will have access to over-the-counter hearing aids. The FDA issued its ruling in August, allowing people who feel they have mild to moderate hearing loss to buy the devices without a prescription directly from stores or online. It’s being hailed as a historic ruling.

Dr. Sarah Sydlowski is president of the American Academy of Audiology and also works at the Cleveland Clinic. She says, “Hearing loss is very common, but that doesn’t mean that it’s something that’s normal or that needs to be tolerated.”

Dr. Sydlowski says research shows hearing loss can impact many aspects of health. “It can be related to cognitive decline, to depression, to anxiety, to social isolation. It’s really a sense that is so important for maintaining a very positive quality of life. It’s how we stay connected and sharp and happy when we’re aging,” Dr. Sydlowski says.

Hearing loss is the third most chronic health condition in older adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s estimated hearing aids could benefit about 30 million Americans.

Dr. Sydlowski says over-the-counter hearing aids are an appropriate first step for some patients. “People who are starting to notice that they’re having a little bit of difficulty. It’s not for someone who has a more significant hearing loss, who has trouble in multiple situations, who has hearing loss only in one ear or a sudden loss or ringing only in one ear. Those are all reasons that you absolutely need to see an audiologist,” she says.

Consumers should be sure to check the return policy. The FDA does not require that the devices are returnable, but the policy must be on the package.

The American Academy Of Audiology recommends seeing an audiologist first to test your hearing and to determine if you’re a good candidate for over-the-counter hearing aids.