By Patrick Gallagher, MBA, Executive Director
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids (HAs) became officially available on Monday, October 17, 2022, and their introduction has been met with much fanfare in the media. Within the Academy community, the reaction has been more measured. The Academy has recognized that OTC HAs may be a way for adults to get started managing hearing loss; however, to really know what is the best treatment, consumers should see an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.
Unfortunately, some OTC promotions have not included the same type of common-sense advice. At one extreme, audiologists are viewed as nothing more than an intermediary whose services are simply a markup. At another extreme is how one OTC manufacturer describes its OTC product as “audiologist quality.” Have you ever heard of an “audiologist quality” hearing aid? The only things that can be considered “audiologist quality” are the services provided by an audiologist, not a device.
A White House press release purports that consumers will realize cost savings of up to $3,000 per pair of OTC HAs. This release, as well as other claims of cost savings, do not mention that some traditional hearing aids are available at comparable prices. More importantly, they do not explain that the cost differentials do not consider the services of audiologists to treat hearing loss.
The omission of or diminishing role of audiologists in hearing health is not good advice. The availability to access an OTC HA device at a local retail outlet may inspire some individuals to take a first step toward treating hearing loss, but the success of the treatment will be fully realized with the expert guidance and assessment by the audiologist.
A more comprehensive solution to untreated hearing loss needs to go beyond the device and address policy changes in Medicare for direct access to audiology services and recognition of audiologists as clinicians, not suppliers.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that it is only by receiving care from an audiologist that you can be assured of “audiologist quality.” The Academy has been working on your behalf to provide expert recommendations and information throughout the OTC regulatory process. From providing Academy members with updated information to working with federal regulators to prevent unintended disruptions in the ability of audiologists to provide care, the Academy has been there for you.
OTCs are just one area where the Academy is advocating on your behalf to represent your interests and those of your patients. The Academy is working to demonstrate why hearing screening and receiving care from an audiologist result in better health outcomes. You know this to be true, but we need to develop the research, evidence, and clinical practice guidelines to convince policy makers of the importance of hearing health care.
For the Academy to continue to effectively represent the profession, we need audiologists to be members of the Academy and participate in these efforts to promote evidence-based care.
Please renew today (gift card offer for those who renew online before November 1)! At a time when some are minimizing audiology’s role in hearing health care, the Academy is dedicated to bolstering audiology’s role.
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