Don’t Make Us Beg

It’s the kind of news that makes the hard of hearing heart beat faster.

No, there’s been no proclamation of National 50% Off Hearing Aids Day.

No announcement of a little pink pill that will make damaged cochlear hair cells spring back to life.

No scientific proof of a twice-daily mantra that will calm the neurons firing off tinnitus cannons in our heads.

It’s more like a climate change event, with the barometer rising in the world of hearing health care.

On June 2nd, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) issued what is considered a ground-breaking report: Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability.  A powerhouse expert committee, comprised of members from all stakeholder groups, assessed the state of hearing health care, its affordability and accessibility for adults in the United States. The resulting study includes 12 recommendations that, if implemented, would bring hearing loss out of the shadows as a major and critical health and social issue. It would make it easier for a person with hearing loss to find and use high-quality, affordable services, technologies, and supports.

According to Brian Taylor’s recent article on HearingHealthMatters.org, responses from hearing health stakeholder groups have been varied, but they are united in saying that “the report makes hearing loss a national priority”.

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) strongly supported the recommendations in a statement: “They clearly emphasize that the individual with hearing loss – the consumer – should be the primary focus in the provision of hearing health care. The findings in the report touch on almost every aspect of hearing health care, underscoring the fact that managing hearing loss not only requires far more than the technology of hearing aids, but also involves family and society as a whole.”   

 

Bravo! Bravo!

 

The Recommendations:

  1. Improve population-based information on hearing loss and hearing health care

  2. Develop and promote measures to assess and improve quality of hearing health care services

  3. Remove the Food and Drug Administration’s Regulation for Medical Evaluation or Waiver

  4. Empower consumers and patients in their use of hearing health care

  5. Improve access to hearing health care for underserved and vulnerable populations

  6. Promote hearing health care in wellness and medical visits for those with concerns about their hearing

  7. Implement a new [FDA] device category for over-the-counter wearable hearing devices

  8. Improve the compatibility and interoperability of hearing technologies with communications systems and the transparency of hearing aid programming

  9. Improve affordability of hearing health care by actions across federal, state, and private sectors

  10. Evaluate and implement innovative models of hearing health care to improve access, quality, and affordability

  11. Improve publicly available information on hearing health

  12. Promote individual, employer, private sector, and community-based actions to support and manage hearing health and effective communication

As a consumer advocate with hearing loss, these statements thrill me with their possibilities. I am, however, just a bit concerned about #7.  I don’t believe that everybody requires the full-on hearing device with a hefty price tag. But while the OTC option is tantalizing, I also believe that anyone seeking hearing help should have some degree of professional evaluation. How do we balance this?

My other problem is that this is an American report and, although a member of HLAA, I’m Canadian.  This report doesn’t fully address the reality of hearing health care delivery in my province or country. So, after gleefully jumping up and down for a couple of minutes, I thought, “Who’s reading this in Canada? And how are we going to get the same sort of pot-stirring report here?  Who will step up?”

However, The Lancet, the renowned general medical journal, responded to the report, saying in part: Although initially developed to inform hearing health care in the context of the USA, the report has global implications in terms of prevention and treatment, particularly when addressing hearing loss as an important global health challenge.”

Yes, hearing loss affects millions of people worldwide. And the 12 recommendations are not really new news. Consumers and professionals have been saying the same thing for years.  Just not all of us. Together. At the same time.  Our words have not been followed up with action at higher levels, with policies that have legs, teeth, and high-octane support.

It’s time.  The market is shifting with the introduction of technology that makes almost anything possible. People with hearing loss want affordable options, and now that they can smell the change in the air, they will demand them.  And it’s clear that the hearing health industry is not only sniffing the same air, but is trying to decide what to do about it.

People with hearing loss are waitingsome patiently and some not– to see if this report will bring about change.  But we will work with you to make it happen. Justplease, don’t make us beg.

people support

Photo: Title from the NAS report.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a sought-after speaker for her humorous and insightful performances about hearing loss. Unheard Voices and EarRage! are ground-breaking solo shows that illuminate the profound impact of hearing loss on a person’s life and relationships, and which Gael has presented to appreciative audiences around Canada, the United States and New Zealand. A DVD/video version of Unheard Voices is now available. She has received awards for her work, including the Consumer Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Gael lives with her husband and son in Toronto.

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David Keenan

We liked your idea about a Half Price Hearing Aids Day but don’t think we can make it selling at half price just one day a year, so instead we do it every day. Seriously! It bothered me that more than half of the people I tested couldn’t afford what we were selling, so I created a business plan that lets us make money selling hearing aids for half, and often less than half, the price charged by my competition. Today we have four stores in Michigan and Indiana, and have plans to expand nationwide. It’s really easy to sell… Read more »

Al Reneski

“Improve affordability of hearing health care by actions across federal, state, and private sectors”
What good are evaluation, education, and “getting the message out there” when a pair of hearing aids can cost more than a used car?? The profit margin is more than that of drug companies, who take much more risks and have much more research costs!
A prior article stated that companies add improved technology about every 6 months. Why? Cell phones would cost many thousands if their companies did that!

Rebecca

Maybe work with WHO?

Mike Metz

What a terrific post from Alina. The “flying off the shelf” comment is particularly noteworthy. I have to add that there are both good and bad aspects to insurance coverage. Insurance should cover these health devices, but then if over-the-cuunter devices work, won’t the insurers elect to only cover these lower priced devices? This places the professionals further out of the picture. Additionally and historically, many professionals refuse to accept what insurers pay. This is true of all healthcare services and devices. I believe that insurance coverage is necessary, but it will be difficult for professionals to remain at the… Read more »

Rebecca

Yes. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

John Norfolk

Yes. Number 12 regarding communication is my great concern. Why do so many organisations require me to provide a TELEPHONE number? I am deaf for goodness sake. To make things worse I cannot even get websites to accept my name and address and email because the “computer says no” as my telephone number is missing!

Alina

My big concern is that this report seems to be focusing on keeping the cost entirely on consumers instead of extending insurance coverage to hearing aids and the necessary care to get them programmed and maintained, and that the report seems to be cutting the professional care out of the picture. The best results in hearing health care are achieved by working with a qualified professional that ensures the aids are fit to each individual ear, and then properly maintained over the life of the aid with updated hearing tests, adjustments and regular professional deep cleaning. They want hearing aids… Read more »

Lynda

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/first-live-television-interview-chair-deafness-forum-calling-brady?trk=v-feed

Australia Deafness Forum has been on the case for YEARS and with our election coming up on 2 July, let’s hope the politicians are listening!

jennifer gibson

I agree with this even though we have been trying to do this for many, many years here. My parents worked side by side with Dr. Laszlo to find ways to educate the public and the government about hearing loss and they worked extremely hard to implement hearing test in babies all across Canada. This was only one, small stage of getting the message out there in terms of how much of an impact hearing loss has on a person’s life. We still have a long ways to go in Canada in providing better quality care for those of us… Read more »