Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
Over 48 million Americans have hearing loss. Many of them do not know it. Of those that do, many will not take action until it affects them negatively. They cannot self-diagnose the degree, type and etiology of their hearing loss, including conditions that requires medical intervention. Consumers cannot perform a visual otoscopy on their own ears that would reveal the presence of ear wax, tumors or other conditions. A Licenses hearing healthcare provided can detect FDA red flags and other conditions, including infection, eardrum perforation, acoustic neuroma and auditory processing disorders. Hearing aids are regulated because they are medical devices and are dispensed by highly trained and licensed professionals. Hearing aids are not like "reading glasses" purchased over the counter. A person cannot purchase prescription glasses without an evaluation. The script is for their eye correction specifically. Its is the same way for hearing aids. The "script" is personalized. If OTC hearing aides are purchased by the consumer and do not improve their hearing the OTC will discourage them and their reports will discourage others. What needs to happen is that insurance coverage of hearing healthcare would alleviate the problem of access to and affordability of hearing aides. If hearing aids become available over the counter, insurance companies will be LESS likely to include hearing aids as a covered benefit. and more people who currently receive a hearing aide insurance benefit will suffer, as well as fewer people will have access to prescription hearing aids. Governmental policy decision making should be evidence based and not unduly influenced by market forces. Allowing hearing aides to be sold OTC jeopardizes the health and safety of the consumer with hearing loss. We support: Insurance coverage of hearing aids, hearing aid tax credits, greater transparency of hearing aide prices and the costs of various services to include un-bundling. We encourage: Accountability of the practitioner to the consumer, longer trial periods, direct access to hearing healthcare providers by Medicare beneficiaries and teleaudiology, the removal of proprietary locks on programming and adjustments of hearing aids; and easier comparison of hearing aide features across brands. We applaud the attention given to this critical issue and support a broader awareness of the prevalence and effects of hearing loss. We encourage consumer education of the issues. With a coordinated effort between industry, hearing healthcare profession, government policy makers, researchers, consumer advocates, non-profit organizations and other stakeholders, these can be accomplished. Consumer health and safety must remain at the forefront of these concerns to improve the quality of life of people with hearing loss through proven methods.