Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200 #00038

Submission Number:
Susan Taulia
Initiative Name:
Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
I agree with many of the comments made by professionals in the hearing health care field already. As a professional with over 20 years working with individuals with hearing problems and their family members, I do not believe that consumers will do a particularly good job of fitting their own hearing aids. People unfamiliar with hearing loss want and believe that getting and using hearing aids ought to be like getting and using glasses. You should be able to put on a hearing aid and hear well. Simple, right? Unfortunately, treating hearing loss is not this simple. Once an individual has lost their ability to hear soft sounds, this ability is permanently gone. Hearing aids do not restore a range of hearing that has been lost. Hearing aids take sounds that are inaudible and amplify them to bring them into the range of hearing of that individual. With many vision problems, correcting the problem is simply a matter of refocusing light waves onto the back of the eye and people see clearly. There is no way to "refocus" sound energy so that people hear clearly. Today's technology does a wonderful job teasing out speech from everything else, but the process is still not nearly as simple as most people seem to think it ought to be. Most people, though not all people, lose their hearing gradually. There is good evidence by Dr. Anu Sharma (Univ of Colorado) to show changes in the brain's cortical processing of sound even with mild hearing loss. As a hearing deficit increases, a person has trouble hearing a wider range of volume of softer sounds. This causes many communication difficulties with awareness of sound, distinguishing words and speech, and separating out what someone wants to hear from that which they do not want to hear. Adjusting to hearing aid use is a process that is not easy for many people. A person must have support and counseling to adapt to hearing new sounds in his or her environment. A person must be sized appropriately for their device so that it fits well. Many people (although not all) need some assistance learning how to put the device in their ears and learning how to keep it clean. A hearing aid is not like a pair of glasses because it has electronic and mechanical parts as well. It must work well in conditions that expose the device to sweat, dirt, dust, earwax, and other debris which can affect how it works. People who are wearing poorly functioning devices can actually experience a degradation in their ability to use sound and interpret it properly in my experience although I am not aware of research that proves this beyond a doubt. I have seen it many times over the years. Many consumers say that they do not use hearing aids because they are too expensive. However, I will echo many other comments from others in this space that point to data from other countries that show very poor adoption rates even when the technology is free to the consumer. Therefore, this argument is not entirely plausible. While there is a group of people who would likely take advantage of hearing help if it were less expensive, this same group might just be the same ones leaving their low-cost devices in the drawer. The bottom line is that most people need the support of a professional to help them hear their best and to keep their technology working its best. This service has a pricetag. Finally, there is a small group of consumers who can be helped medically and who should be seen medically to treat their hearing problem. Eliminating professional advice will set some consumers back quite a distance in their efforts to hear their best because they could have been helped through medical treatment and weren't. Professionals working in hearing health care currently help these people connect with the professional care they need. If you would like further comments from me I can be reached at [Redacted] Sincerely, Susan M. Taulia, AuD Lafayette Hearing Center www.lafayettehearingcenter.com