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In October 2015, PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) delivered a letter report to the President detailing hearing loss, implications should it go untreated, the current hearing aid “market,” and recommendations to increase accessibility of amplification. While I could talk for 18 years about the implications hearing loss has on a patient the longer it is not addressed (increased fall risk, increased risk for developing dementia, withdrawal from social interactions… I mean, the list goes on), that’s for another day. It is within the recommendations made in this letter that a serious problem arises: PCAST wants to treat hearing aids like a commodity, a cute pair of shoes you can purchase and wear without any further thought behind it.
(Obtained from: http://www.thebrainydeafsite.com/p3.html)
NEWSFLASH: HEARING AIDS ARE NOT GLASSES FOR YOUR EARS!
Hearing aids do not treat hearing loss in the linear way that eyeglasses address vision impairment. Rather than presenting hearing aids as something we can window shop for, we should be calling for them to be seen as a medical solution! Hearing aids ARE treatment options for those suffering from hearing loss-a medical condition that varies between individuals. They ARE NOT an over-the-counter remedy that works universally.
PCAST’s first recommendation within the aforementioned letter presents the idea that hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss should be approved by the FDA for sale over-the-counter WITHOUT a single evaluation performed by or consultation with an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser. Imagine self-deciding that you need to wear a full mask CPAP machine every night for the rest of your life without undergoing a sleep study or a consultation with a board certified sleep medicine doctor? You wouldn’t! Or I hope you wouldn’t…
Additionally, PCAST calls for audiologists and hearing aid dispensers to provide a simple programmable profile based on a diagnostic hearing evaluation for such OTC hearing aids. Here’s an example that highlights the most glaring issue here: 3 people may present with the exact same audiogram, but process sound inputs completely differently. Picture these 3 individuals with the same allergy to mold and oak (hello springtime in Central Texas!)-the treatment of each person will vary based on patient need. A single dose of Flonase in the morning may offer relief to one patient and have zero effect on another. Hearing aids are extraordinarily similar: one manufacturer with one prescribed programming strategy will not work for all patients.
Hearing aids are therapy tools-treatment devices that should be adjusted based on patient need. Success with amplification requires an honest relationship between patient and provider. An audiologist is not a shoe salesman! We don’t help you pick out the pair you like and send you on your way, never to be heard from again. It’s an ongoing relationship to ensure proper treatment of a patient’s hearing loss and improvement in quality of life. For that, don’t expect some OTC device to provide the same level of success. Don’t go see a dentist for Lasik eye surgery. Don’t trust your auto mechanic to manage your banking portfolio. See an audiologist to improve your hearing health. Demand better.