Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200 #00041

Submission Number:
Jim Voltz
Initiative Name:
Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
Thank you for looking into the hearing and health technology industry! Please do whatever you can to make hearing assistance technology more affordable and accessible to all Americans. I have progressive hearing loss, and while I have health insurance and my income is good, I've avoided purchasing professional hearing aids because of the exorbitant cost. I know I'll need to cash in some of my retirement savings someday, and probably fairly soon, but I'm hopeful that a more open and competitive market will dramatically reduce the cost of hearing assistance technology soon. When the cost of other technology is dropping precipitously, hearing assistance technology is escalating. It's clear that there needs to be more competition and less collusion in this industry. If access to the technology were more affordable I believe every part of the hearing industry would thrive while life saving hearing is restored to those who are suffering. The cost of not having decent hearing is causing other health problems, in particular, social isolation and depression and, at least in part, the progression of dementia. This leads to a loss of productivity and increasing costs for other healthcare and social services. I've seen wonderful improvement of those I know who've been able to invest thousands of dollars in audiologists and hearing assistance devices. However, unfortunately, I know more people who cannot afford to address their hearing loss and are suffering while their health and spirits are diminishing. It's very difficult to get my friends with hearing loss to get out of the house. They're embarrassed to have to ask people to repeat things, or to please more loudly. They feel like a burden. They pretend to understand conversations, but in reality they feel left out. They are smiling and nodding on the surface, while thinking sad thoughts in their head. Believing that life will not ever be the same again. One good friend is brilliant and she WAS vivacious, generous, and actively invested in helping others. But now she feels she cannot contribute her ideas to conversations and feels like she's becoming more of a burden than a gift to her friends and to the poor and lonely folks she was always helping. If I were able, I'd pay for the tests and technology, but sadly I cannot do so, and she is withering away, withdrawing from her community service and volunteer activities and losing the wonderful spirit she once had. I'm sure that if she could hear well again she'd thrive again. Her hearing loss is causing her, and her community, to lose her vital, loving and creative spirit. It hurts my heart to know that what she, and others like her, need is out of reach because of the greed and/or delicate feelings of others who want to protect the benefits they reap from the status quo. I'm sure that folks in the industry are lobbying hard to protect their profits and keep a good thing going, but I truly believe that with the encouragement of the FTC, they can reap rewards while improving the lives of thousands, perhaps millions, of regular folks who could so readily be aided. I don't intend to be mean, or bitter, or nasty. I know that the folks in the hearing health field are good people. I truly believe that there's a better way to protect their reputations and incomes and honor their life saving expertise and technology advances while improving the lives of so many people who are suffering from the lack of access to help. My thoughts and hopes are with you in your good work. Sincerely, Jim