By Robert Roy Britt: For Complete Post, Click Here…
An obvious solution is stuck in governmental red tape.
When my wife’s apparent muffled mumblings seemed to get worse as we aged into our fifties, I went through the three stages of hearing-loss grief:
- I denied the problem was with my ears and came up with numerous ways of saying, “What did you say?”
- Finally I got tested by an audiologist, who confirmed moderate hearing loss in both ears that will only worsen with age.
- Then came the final stage of grief: The hearing aids that would help me cost several thousand dollars, and my insurance wouldn’t cover it.
I’m not alone. Hearing loss is a serious, growing, and significantly underappreciated and unaddressed problem.
The problem with the solution
But by U.S. law, hearing aids cannot be sold without a prescription. Many insurance plans don’t cover them, and they typically cost more than $2,000 per ear. Given these hurdles and some stigma around hearing loss and the devices themselves, nearly one-third of people who would benefit from hearing aids don’t have them. So in 2017, Congress passed a law permitting the sale of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids, targeted specifically at people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss (people with severe hearing loss would still be encouraged to visit a doctor).
The law required the Food and Drug Administration to set guidelines for testing and approval of the new devices. But the agency quietly missed its deadline to do so in August of this year.
The silence from the FDA has some hearing-loss experts’ ears burning.
“This inaction for OTC hearing aids is leaving millions of Americans without the necessary devices they were promised and will benefit from through implementation of this law,” says Kevin Franck, PhD, director of audiology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a specialty hospital in Boston. “We call on the FDA to make OTC hearing aids a priority for the American people and address the deafening silence that has occurred since the federal government heard the call from advocates and issued a legislative mandate over three years ago,” Franck and his colleagues write in a recent New England Journal of Medicine perspective article.