Over-the-counter Hearing Devices. A solution?

Over-the-counter Hearing Devices.   A solution?

Independence is a great thing – we love being able to snap our fingers and have the solution to our problem.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our health – we should take a less direct approach. Our hearing deserves the best attention it can receive – once we lose it, we cannot every fully get it back.

You may have heard news the last few years around solutions to improve the affordability and access for hearing aids and hearing healthcare.  Our very own Dr. Tom Tedeschi along with Janette Kihm conducted a study, “Implications of an Over-the-Counter Approach to Hearing Healthcare: A Consumer Study”.  The proposed solution to increasing accessibility while lowering cost is to develop a “separate category of ‘basic hearing aids’ approved for over-the-counter (OTC) sales for adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.”

In order for the OTC model to be successful, individuals require tools to properly and accurately self-diagnose and classify their level of hearing loss and selecting and using a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) or ready-to-wear hearing aid.  The first part of this study was for the participants to do exactly that.  The second phase was for each participant to go to a provider to be professionally tested and have a product recommendation provided, if applicable.

The results were not surprising with only 1 in 4 being able to correctly self-diagnose their degree of hearing loss. Even with correct diagnosis, the overall satisfaction rates of the device quality and the overall benefits participants received from the devices was very low. Secondarily, it was quite clear that participants were not clear on important technical features to maximize the personalized benefits of the devices.

Here’s some Q&A of common questions we receive:

Q: Why are your hearing aids so much more expensive?
A: OTC devices typically amplify sound but can’t actually help your brain process sound which is the most important part of addressing hearing loss.

Q: OTC hearing devices are going to work for me the same way that my old ones do so why would I pay more?
A: OTC hearing aids can be extremely uncomfortable in the ear, and for many patients they’re difficult to manage because they are not properly fit by the hearing professional.

Q: OTC hearing devices are more convenient to get a hold of and will help me be able to hear again for a lot cheaper.
A: OTC hearing aids can actually be the cause of hearing damage or make existing damage even worse with improper use and adjustment.

Q: The new OTC bill says I don’t need to see a licensed audiologist/hearing professional so why would I?
A: OTC hearing aids bypass the crucial steps of professional testing, programming, fitting and follow-up to rule out hearing problems and ensure the device is appropriate for your ears which is what our program offers.

Q: I just don’t understand why I would go through your program when OTC devices are less expensive and do the same thing.
A: When you factor in office visits such as fittings, adjustments and cleanings that would not be included with OTC devices – our discounted pricing would prove to be more than cost effective and more effective in addressing both short term and long term hearing loss.

You can check to see if your insurance covers hearing aids and services or you can find a clinic near you and get a hearing test.

Read the full study report here.

Amplifon’s Hearing Health Care Program is an NCRGEA member benefit.