With last summer’s passage of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, you may wonder how it affects your health care. As an AudigyCertified™ practice, we consider patient education an important part of delivering excellent service, so count on us for timely news to support your hearing wellness.
What does the law do?
The legislation, part of the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act, will allow the retail sale of hearing aids for adults with self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss — without the crucial involvement of an audiologist or medical doctor.
When will I see its impact?
Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing technology is at most a few years from being publicly available, pending development of federal regulations for safety, labeling, and manufacturing.
What are the pros of this change?
The law could help expand consumer access to hearing technology, motivate more people to seek hearing help, and inspire more technological innovations that benefit patients.
What are the cons?
Access to hearing health care is vital, but the law unfortunately will enable self-treatment for a serious physical condition that trained, licensed professionals are more suited to evaluate, diagnose, and treat.
Aren’t OTC hearing devices already available?
You may be thinking of personal sound amplification products (PSAPs), which are wearable electronic devices used for activities such as bird-watching or TV-viewing to make a sound louder — not to take the place of properly fit hearing aids.
What’s the difference between OTC devices and PSAPs?
Currently available PSAPs are neither FDA-approved nor recommended for treating actual hearing loss. OTC hearing technology will be FDA-regulated but won’t be available for a while.
Once available on the market, will OTCs address my hearing needs?
Hearing loss is often an inner-ear problem, but sometimes it’s a different issue such as earwax buildup, a foreign object in the ear canal, or an ear infection that may cause temporary hearing difficulty. A PSAP or OTC won’t tackle these types of underlying problems.
What else should I know about OTCs?
OTCs will address only mild to moderate hearing loss, and, even then, noise processing will be far less than a traditional hearing aid. They won’t always offer a successful fit and may be less specific to your situation.
What’s the benefit of choosing provider-fit hearing aids instead?
Unlike OTCs and PSAPs, provider-fit hearing aids can address the full spectrum of hearing impairment from mild to profound. They’re already FDA-approved, are recommended to treat hearing loss, and can adjust to environmental variables such as background noise as well as help your brain process sound.
Self-treating hearing loss might seem convenient, but it can do more harm than good. Professional care — including testing, programming, fitting, and follow-up — helps you get to the bottom of your hearing difficulties and secure the right solution for your communication needs.
If you have questions about OTC hearing technology, signs and symptoms of hearing loss, or the dangers of self-treating hearing problems, contact us today. We’re here to help!