Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200 #00131

Submission Number:
Cynthia Stewart
Initiative Name:
Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
I have a severe, bordering on profound, hearing loss and have worn hearing aids all my life. I am also now working with my brother, age 68, on obtaining hearing aids for the first time. These experiences have convinced me both that no one should get an OTC hearing aid, because they don't know what they're doing without appropriate audiology assistance. OTC hearing aids lose something in translation for those with significant, not just very mild, hearing loss; and with data that shows people often wait 10 years after first realizing they have hearing loss before they get hearing aids, the loss they actually have is not necessarily as minimal as they believe. I am concerned that OTC hearing aids will cause many people to avoid getting audiology services, such as appropriate testing and fitting, and inappropriate hearing aids as a result. I am also convinced that less expensive hearing aids must be possible and should be available. There is no reason for good hearing aids to be prohibitively priced, driving people to want an easier, more affordable answer. It would be far better to have a widespread public campaign about hearing loss - and some bulk purchasing that would allow audiologists to provide appropriate earmold fitting and hearing aids for all patients at an affordable price. Additionally, all health insurance should be required to include coverage of hearing aids (maybe the insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare could bargain the cost down to a reasonable level, where it should be), so that people don't have to get a loan to procure the hearing aids they really need. If the public were well educated about hearing loss and the need for proper audiology assistance, and insurance covered hearing aids, bargaining down the prices, then OTC would not be necessary. Please consider this instead of the OTC option.