In the October/November 2017 edition of the Bucks County Women’s Journal, my article on the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 appeared. I provided information on how this legislation was created, its four components, incorporation into the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, and being signed into law on August 18th, 2017 by the President.
Now, over four years later, the Federal government is asking for comment from the public, and some companies have already advertised and begun to sell these devices.
The implied intent of this Act is to make hearing aids more affordable and accessible to the masses. What it does is set up the consumer for failure and disappointment.
This Act permits and promotes consumer self-diagnosing of hearing loss and fitting hearing aids without any supervision, involvement, or intervention of an Audiologist or any medical professional. There’s no evaluation or prescription for the consumer. The acquisition will be valid for purchases made in-person, by mail, or online. Furthermore, all State and local laws surrounding the sale and fitting of hearing aids are null and void. All safeguards established beforehand or under consideration are eliminated. The provisions within this legislation are a recipe for disaster for people experiencing hearing difficulty. Laws, guidelines, and established common sense regarding medical complaints or anomalies are discarded. Now, a person experiencing hearing difficulty can purchase a device from anywhere and use it to fix their perceived problem.
It is a tremendous hurdle for a person to realize they have hearing difficulty and schedule an appointment to see an audiologist for a complete audiological evaluation for proper diagnosis and intervention. This Act feeds into a mentality of obtaining a low-cost, quick fix without proper medical guidance. If a person decides to doit-yourself, they will be disappointed one hundred percent of the time.
When the consumer becomes dissatisfied with their choice and sees no benefit in their self-fitted over-the-counter hearing aids, it will place them further behind the eight ball. Now, they will not see the value in properly fitted amplification, will not seek the professional intervention and assistance required, broadcast to all whom will listen that ‘hearing aids don’t work,’ and inadvertently self-inflict a poorer quality of life due to their hearing issues.
Because of the legislated intentional lack of professional services and encouraging the ill-informed consumer to self-medicate with any over-the-counter devices, proper healthcare is denied.
Hearing aids are medical devices prescribed & fitted to patients with hearing loss evaluated by an audiologist. This person is a medical professional with 8-10 years of university study and possesses a doctorate degree in audiology. Some specialize in diagnosing hearing loss & fitting amplification, providing appropriate counseling and aural rehabilitation. This is critical for patient safety, satisfaction, and professional services ensuring success.
Many afflictions lend themselves to a person thinking all they have is hearing loss and a hearing aid will help. Audiological diagnoses are impacted earwax, perforated eardrum, cholesteatoma, otitis media, ossicular chain discontinuity, collapsed canal, foreign object in canal, sudden sensorineural hearing loss, acoustic neuroma, site of lesion, and more. An individual without a properly diagnosed medical condition could purchase and wear a hearing aid.
The best upgrade is to change the present law that required a medical evaluation by a physician for amplification to the Doctor of Audiology. It was in effect decades ago before the inception of audiology, advancement in educational requirements in university study, training, and internship before entering practice. Now, an individual can and will be properly evaluated, diagnosed, treated, and receive rehabilitation by an audiologist.
What you should do if hearing difficulty is suspected, is see a Board Certified & Licensed Private Practice Audiologist (Doctor of Audiology) for a consultation & evaluation. You have a choice to reject these provisions negatively impacting public health. An estimated 48-50 million Americans with hearing loss need help. One in three between the ages of 65 to 74 and half of people age 75+ experience hearing loss requiring properly fitted amplification. Don’t you deserve the best?