In 2015, the President’s Council on Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued recommendations intended to improve hearing health- care delivery. Subsequently, the FDA and other federal agencies and consumer advocacy groups sponsored a study published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in June 2016. Further considerations have been discussed in an FDA (April 2016) and FTC (April 2017) workshops. A common issue discussed in each of these reports and workshops is the high cost of hearing aids as a primary factor in adoption rates.
Looking beyond the fact that hearing aids are only a part of hearing health-care delivery, does hearing aid cost serve as the primary adoption barrier? In the most recent JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, Valente and Amlani (2017) provide a well-developed answer to this question. Hearing aid adoption rates are quite often quoted at approximately 33 percent in the United States. Valente and Amlani compare this to countries with fully or mostly subsidized devices. The highest adoption rate reported was for Norway at 42.5 percent of citizens with needing hearing aids adopting the technology (devices are free of charge). However, that leaves 57.5 percent of individuals with hearing loss that do not purse devices.
Valente and Amlani provide further support based on adoption rates in the VA system and Australia. They suggest that price is a factor, just not the primary factor and that more significant factors may include social stigma, denial of hearing loss, and reduced self-efficacy.
Valente M, Amlani AM. (2017) Cost as a barrier for hearing aid adoption. JAMA Otolaryngology Head Neck Surg. Published online May 18, 2017.
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