President Joe Biden recently signed a new executive order stating that “hearing aids are so expensive (greater than $5,000/pair) that only 14% of approximately 48 million Americans with hearing loss use them.”
As a result, he will direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “to consider issuing proposed rules within 120 days for allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter.”
What Are Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids?
Over-the-counter or ‘OTC’ hearing devices may be a great start for mild hearing loss and for people who are starting to notice that they do not hear as well as they once did.
As a team, we are all PRO audiology and PRO access and affordability for hearing healthcare, so we recognize that OTC hearing devices can provide access to get someone started along the journey to better hearing.
However, if their hearing loss changes, they will need to have an expert audiologist help them understand the importance of treating the hearing loss and wearing appropriate technology.
OTC devices mainly act as amplifiers to make sounds louder, but typically with hearing loss, it is not volume that is the issue; it is clarity.
What Do The Professionals Think Of OTC Devices?
I often think about what would happen if my parents were to purchase an OTC device, and it actually scares me!
I know they would get lost in the process; they would be extremely frustrated and possibly think that all hearing devices are the same.
In the end, it would be a waste of money, time, and effort.
OTC devices also don’t account for the possible risk associated with other serious health problems.
As an industry (on a larger level) and as a clinic, we need to constantly educate people on the health concerns surrounding hearing loss in general and, of course, untreated hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a serious issue and should not be dismissed.
An OTC device will never perform the same as a well-researched, designed, manufactured, programmed, and adequately cared for hearing device. This level of high performance is only achieved when an audiologist works with the patient to determine their needs and follows them through the entire process.
So, with all due respect, my opinion is that the government has missed the mark on what needs to be accomplished here.
If the government wants to help people with their health, then they need to make hearing care accessible by requiring health insurance to cover the hearing devices.
The lack of hearing aid insurance coverage and accessibility to proper hearing technology is the problem.
The poor reimbursement rates for audiological services are also a problem. The audiologist brings the most important aspect of hearing healthcare – the professional care – which has been “deemed” the most unnecessary component.
What Is The Alternative?
The goal we have as a clinic is to fit the patient with devices that will help them communicate effectively and preserve the integrity of the hearing nerve while simultaneously aiding in the preservation of memory loss, preventing isolation, and alleviating the frustration that the patient experiences.
We are here to help improve every one of our patient’s quality of life and overall well-being.
If you have any questions or concerns and want to speak to a hearing care professional, we’re here for you.