When I enter our office’s conference room to meet a prospective elderly client for the first time, I am not always sure where I will be sitting. Mainly because, if the client has a hearing deficit, I want to sit on client’s better hearing side. We have a hearing amplification device with headphones we sometimes give the client, but the best solution to allow proper communication are properly fitted hearing aids.
There are significant barriers for seniors to receive hearing aids. They are expensive, they are not covered by many health plans, including Medicare, are used by only a small percentage of those who need them. New federal legislation signed into law last week aims to make the medical devices cheaper and more widely used by ensuring high-quality products are available over-the-counter and without a doctor’s involvement.
Under the law, the Food and Drug Administration must propose regulation for over-the-counter hearing aids in the next three years to make sure the products are safe and effective. The over-the-counter products are specifically for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. More than 35 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and the numbers are only expected to grow as the U.S. population ages. The price of a hearing aid — more than $2,000 on average, with some people needing two — has long been a bone of contention. The process of obtaining a hearing aid can also be bulky and complicated, involving trips to up to several doctors; and hearing aids can also only be bought through licensed sellers. The over-the-counter hearing aid bill was proposed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). It was signed into law as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act, which extends agreements with industry that fund regulation of drugs and medical devices and allows the agency to continue operating for the next several years.