Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
As an audiologist, I understand the importance of hearing healthcare for Americans. I also know that healthcare is too expensive in general. Hip transplants, open heart surgery, chemotherapy, all these and more can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars each. It's insane! Yet for most people, they don't think about the costs of their healthcare. Yes, they may bemoan their insurance premiums, or their deductibles, but rarely do they investigate the cost of the individual procedures they need or the retail costs of the medical devices they need. They don't know that an actual hip prosthetic costs at most a few hundred dollars. No one asks why, if the prosthetic costs only a few hundred dollars does the surgery to restore hip function cost $40,000. Then you still have to pay the physical therapist. If only we could find a cheaper way to implant those hips, think of the money we would save! Maybe some highly intelligent people can implant their own hips! That doctor in Antarctica performed surgery on herself, so why can't I? Of course this is laughable, as we understand that hip surgery requires the skills and expertise of a trained and licensed surgeon and rehabilitation with a physical therapist. Just as a layman cannot safely and successfully perform a hip transplant, nor can the layman safely and successfully treat hearing loss with hearing aids. When would the layman increase compression or decrease expansion? When would you want to frequency shift? In what situations should you activate a telecoil? When might an assisted listening device be needed? Don't know what these things are? Exactly. Do hearing aids costs too much? Yes. Does a hip transplant cost too much? Yes. Does your prescription cost too much? Yes. Medical care costs too much and systemic efforts should be taken to reign in the expense. But the solution isn't to encourage self-treatment of particular medical conditions. If this were really a push to increase access to hearing healthcare to those who cannot currently afford it, why isn't the push to have have hearing aids and hearing rehabilitation covered by insurance? I think the reason that that isn't the push is that this isn't really about increasing access to hearing healthcare. It's really an attempt to sponge money away from competent medical professionals and the companies that collectively spend over half a billion dollars yearly researching improvements to hearing instruments. Instead, the backers of this bill want to send the money into the pockets of consumer electronic companies. This is a disingenuous attempt for consumer electronic companies to make money off unsuspecting patients who should be seeking medical treatment, not performing ineffective self-treatment. We can only hope it is coincidental that the primary backer of this bill in the Senate shares a home state with one of the corporations that stand to benefit most from this act. Government employees receive a $2,500 benefit towards hearing aids with their insurance plans. This is enough to get an entry level pair of hearing aids and services from a hearing healthcare professional. The government recognizes the importance of hearing healthcare and appropriately fit hearing aids for its workers. Why doesn't it recognizes this need for the rest of Americans.