The Academy has heard growing consternation from members about the lack of recognition by the current Administration, legislators, regulators, and the public of the important role of audiologists in hearing and balance health care. The widely publicized launch of the over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids market and its emphasis on self-driven care have further fueled concerns that the important role of audiological services in supporting optimal hearing health care is not well-understood.
This week, following the State of the Union address, the Academy reached out to the Administration to highlight again the important role of the audiologist in hearing health care. We recognize the efforts by the Administration to normalize hearing aids and shine the national spotlight on access and hearing loss; however, we also perceive a continued lack of understanding about audiologists and the appropriate utilization of OTC devices.
We have requested the opportunity for dialogue and to work together to address the prevalence of hearing loss and its associated comorbidities and to expand access to audiology services and all available treatment options and to clarify that OTC hearing aids are not a replacement for audiologists, even for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.
We maintain our commitment to continually promote the critical role of the audiologist in the hearing and balance health-care continuum. The introduction of OTC hearing aids creates a path for autonomous access to hearing technology. However, OTC devices do not and cannot replace the valuable skills audiologists provide across the entire spectrum of hearing care, from prevention to implantation. To that end, we remain focused on achieving passage of legislation to modernize Medicare relative to audiology in the new Congress.
With the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), we are working with continuing and new congressional partners to craft legislation to achieve the appropriate classification of audiologists and recognition of our treatment services under Medicare. Through this legislation, as well as through ongoing work with the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), we also will remove remaining barriers to direct access to audiology services.
As we continue to make strides, we invite members to engage as well. Together, we can dispel the misunderstanding that OTC hearing aids reduce the need for professional care provided by audiologists. You can help to educate your legislators and policymakers about your value to patient care, overall health outcomes, quality of life, and cost savings. As the legislative process continues, we will also be calling on members in the future to reach out with specific talking points.
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