On March 21, 2017 Senator Elizabeth Warren submitted the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. And astonishingly on August 3, 2017 it passed. Once the FDA has had time to set the new regulatory standards; they have three years, the millions of Americans who endure some level of hearing loss will have access to hearing aids at a humane cost.
This is especially important because, according to senior study investigator and Johns Hopkins otologist and epidemiologist Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.
In a study, published in 2013,” volunteers with hearing loss, undergoing repeated cognition tests over six years, had cognitive abilities that declined some 30 percent to 40 percent faster than in those whose hearing was normal. Levels of declining brain function were directly related to the amount of hearing loss, the researchers say. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.”
"Our results show that hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging, because it may come with some serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning," says Lin, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university's Bloomberg School of Public Health.
As anyone who has (or who has a loved one who has) hearing loss knows hearing aids are expensive on average $2,300 per ear and they are not covered by most insurance companies and most importantly for the vast number of aging Americans they are not covered by Medicare. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that cost is the barrier to 86% of people who need hearing aids not buying them.
Real optimism is in the air!
Quoting the Hearing Loss Association of America from their website: http://www.hearingloss.org
“Practically every industry has been disrupted with innovative technology. The hearing health care market is no different. We could not have considered OTC hearing wearable devices 20 years ago but innovation is pushing its way into the hearing health care market. Innovation has the potential to create more variety and better products. Competition from new players in the market has the potential to drive down cost for not only OTC hearing aids, but for all hearing aids. People with hearing loss should have the tools they need to make informed decisions about their own hearing health.”
Let’s hope that opening up this industry to innovation and competition will enable us have a future when people will no longer be stigmatized, diminished and isolated by hearing impairment.