By Gyl A. Kasewurm This article is a part of the January/February 2017, Volume 29, Number 1, Audiology Today issue. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report in late 2015 suggesting that the market for hearing-impaired consumers was characterized by high cost and low innovation, and suggested that current distribution channels created a barrier to access for older Americans in need of hearing care (HLAA, 2016). The Council further declared that hearing health care was too expensive for the majority of Americans. They identified a few recommendations for change, including the need to reduce the cost of hearing aids and the possibility of creating a category for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids (PCAST, 2016). Just a few days prior to the writing of this article, U.S. Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley, announced plans to introduce the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016. Citing recommendations from the recent investigation into the cost of hearing health care (PCAST, 2016) and the resultant report on hearing aid accessibility and affordability, the bipartisan legislation would make certain types of hearing aids available OTC and, “would remove unnecessary and burdensome requirements that currently create barriers for consumers who could benefit from hearing aids.” According to the press release, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016 (Hearing Review, 2016) would allow hearing aids that are, “intended to be used by adults to compensate for mild to moderate hearing impairment” to be sold over the counter. Furthermore, it would also remove the requirement that people get a medical evaluation or sign a waiver in order to obtain hearing aids. In essence, the proposed legislation would eliminate the need for audiologists to be involved in fitting hearing aids for individuals with mild or moderate hearing loss. Why This Matters So how could this impending legislation affect audiologists and what can we expect in the coming year? While some industry insiders may project impending doom, my overly optimistic personality believes that while our industry will face and is, in fact, in need of change, there will always be a place for quality hearing health care. Audiologists will continue to be the most qualified professionals to provide that care. I asked some colleagues to share their concerns for 2017 and, as expected, the situation causing the most anxiety is the unavoidable change in the dispensing model created by competition from big-box stores, manufacturer-owned practices, the internet, and the pending new legislation that will allow and encourage over-the-counter sales of hearing aids. This content is an exclusive benefit for American Academy of Audiology members. If you're a member, log in and you'll get immediate access. Member Login If you're not yet a member, you'll be interested to know that joining not only gives you access to top-notch resources like this one, but also invitations to member-only events, inclusion in the member directory, participation in professional forums, and access to patient resources, tools, and continuing education. Join today!