Pete Couste said it was his wife who first noticed that he was turning up the TV louder than she liked.

“I couldn’t hear the words in movies as much anymore,” admitted Couste, who lives just outside Washington, DC.

Watching TV isn’t Couste’s only problem. In his church choir, he can’t always hear his part and get the pitch right. It’s also affected his work at the Fire Safety Research Institute, a nonprofit that generates safety research. The 61-year-old said he feels less effective judging audio quality when his team makes their life-saving videos for firefighters.

“It is affecting all parts of my life,” he said.

He saw an audiologist who said he needed hearing aids, but they would have cost him more than $6,000. “I thought, ‘Maybe this can wait,’ ” Couste said.

That was seven years ago.

The wait may be over for Couste and millions of other Americans. On Monday, for the first time, adults with mild to moderate hearing loss in the US will be able to buy over-the-counter hearing aids. Those who are under 18 or who have severe hearing loss will still need a prescription.

Help for millions

The US Food and Drug Administration announced the long-awaited rule change in August, ushering in options that should be cheaper and possibly even better.

Now, instead of getting a prescription and having a custom fitting with a hearing health professional, adults can buy hearing aids directly from a store or online. Some doctors estimate that 90% of the population with hearing loss could benefit from these over-the-counter devices.

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