Bethesda, MD (October 28, 2015): The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the nation’s leading organization representing people with hearing loss, enthusiastically endorses a new report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The findings of the report, titled “Aging America & Hearing Loss: Imperative of Improved Technologies,” serve to open the market for new innovation in hearing device technologies and also increase choice for consumers of hearing aids, both essential strategies long espoused by HLAA that are necessary to enhance hearing health care.
The PCAST report focuses on the nearly 30 million adults over the age of 60 who have age-related, progressive, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Only a small percentage of people with hearing loss (according to the report about 15-30 percent) seek treatment. There are several factors contributing to this low number, but the PCAST report points out that two of the driving factors are that the market is characterized by high cost and low innovation, and that the current distribution channels create a barrier to access.
As a result of these findings the Council has made four recommendations in their report to the president:
- FDA [Food and Drug Administration] should approve a distinct class of hearing aids for over-the-counter (OTC) sales, without the current requirement for consultation with a “credentialed dispenser” such as an audiologist, ear, nose and throat specialist, or licensed hearing aid specialist.
- FDA should withdraw its draft guidance on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). A PSAP is a wearable consumer electronic device intended for non-hearing impaired people to amplify sounds in certain environments. If effected, the 2013 guidance would forbid PSAP manufacturers from making truthful claims about the functionality of the product in certain situations because those claims could label the device a “hearing aid.”
- FTC [Federal Trade Commission] should require hearing-aid dispensers who perform standard hearing tests and hearing aid fittings to provide the customer with a copy of their results at no additional cost and in a format that can be used by other dispensers and vendors.
- FTC should define a process to authorize hearing aid vendors to obtain a copy of a customer’s hearing test results and programmable audio profile from any audiologist who performs such a test, and do so at no additional cost to the customer.
“The findings of this report are clearly in line with HLAA’s mission – which is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss,” said Anna Gilmore-Hall, HLAA executive director. “The individual and cumulative effects of these recommendations will serve as an important step in raising public awareness around the issues of hearing loss, expanding consumer choice and driving change in the marketplace.”
While HLAA supports this groundbreaking report from PCAST, access to technology or hearing aids by consumers is not a substitute for following good hearing health care practices. We encourage people to see their primary care physician and their hearing health care provider for regular checkups. These recommendations offer people who have a mild-to-moderate, gradual, progressive hearing loss another option to address their needs. They serve to break down barriers and provide greater access to a variety of solutions for people with hearing loss.
These recommendations serve as an important step to bringing about much-needed change in hearing health care. However, in order to be effective they must be implemented. In the interest of the largest group of our constituents – consumers – HLAA looks forward to engaging all stakeholders to ensure everything possible is being done to put the recommendations of the PCAST report into action.
The full PCAST report, along with relevant policy statements regarding HLAA’s position onEmerging Technology, Screening for Hearing Loss in Primary Care Settings, and Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids can be found through the links provided or on the HLAA website.
About the Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), founded in 1979, opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy. HLAA produces the Walk4Hearing® in 22 cities across the country, publishes the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, holds annual conventions (Convention 2016 is in Washington, DC, June 23-26), advocates for the rights of people with hearing loss, conductseducational webinars, and has an extensive network of chapters and state organizationsacross the country. For more information, visit www.hearingloss.org.