Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
I am a doctor of audiology and I have been in private practice for 14 years. I have been an audiologist for 20+ years. I have been required to have a graduate degree and state licensure for my entire career. I was always told that state licensure is necessary to protect the consumer from someone who is "untrained" selling and fitting hearing instruments and potentially causing harm to the patient. So, NOW it is okay to self diagnose and self treat hearing loss? I find it hard to believe that my entire career and field of study is now not necessary and I think my satisfied patients would agree. I am certainly in favor of finding ways to have more hard of hearing individuals have access to GOOD care, not just a device. That device (any hearing device) by its self is NOT what treats hearing loss. Hearing loss is best treated with a comprehensive treatment PLAN that includes proper diagnosis and treatment that is ongoing and dynamic. It requires an ongoing relationship between the audiologist and the patient. Instead of giving people access to devices that could provide potential harm, I would recommend requiring insurance coverage for the audiological services that are critical for success with hearing instruments. I would also be in favor of a tax credit for people who purchase hearing aids and direct access to an audiologist for patients who have medicare. We know that hearing care is an important part of healthcare. People with untreated hearing loss are 3 times more likely to fall. There are high co-morbidity rates between hearing loss and heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease and dementia. Is treatment of such an important part of healthcare something that should be done without a professional? My fear as an audiologist is that if hearing aids can be purchased OTC, then many people with buy them and for most of them, they won't work. At that point, I'm afraid that people will just give up on hearing healthcare. Lord knows there are too many people now who have hearing aids and who think that they don't work! We do not need more of that! Please reconsider allowing hearing aids to be purchased OTC. Remember that the commodity is BETTER HEARING, not just a hearing aid. Thank you for reading.