BETHESDA, MARYLAND — The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has reaffirmed its support this week of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 and has issued a call to action to encourage consumers, particularly those affected by hearing loss, to reach out to their Senators and Congressmen to vote in support of the legislation.
The legislation (Senate bill S. 670; House bill H.R. 1652), if passed, would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new category of hearing aids that can be sold over the counter (OTC). HLAA and other proponents of the legislation say that OTC hearing aids will reduce the cost of hearing aids to consumers and will spark greater innovation, as well as increase competition.
“Opponents are expected to present revisions to remove or weaken the provisions of the bill. Powerful special interest groups are fighting the bill in order to keep the cost of hearing aids high to protect the bottom line of those who stand to gain from keeping the status quo. We need to let our Senators and Representatives know that consumers with hearing loss want – need – access to lower cost hearing aids.” -HLAA Action Alert
HLAA: New OTC Hearing Aids Will Help Consumers
According to HLAA Executive Director Barbara Kelley, “This is just one piece of the big picture to make hearing aids more affordable. HLAA has advocated – as have many other organizations – for Medicare and insurance coverage for many years, with little progress and little hope that it will become a reality anytime soon. However, the Over-the Counter Hearing Aid Act may be a viable alternative for people who want to do something about their hearing loss but who can’t afford to.”
HLAA says the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act is important to consumers because:
- Approximately 30 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids, yet only about 14 percent use them, often citing high cost as the reason – hearing aid prices on average of $2400 each.
- The top six hearing aid manufacturers account for 98 percent of all hearing aid sales (and only one of those companies is U.S.-based).
- Innovation is pushing its way into the hearing healthcare market and has the potential to create more variety and better products. Competition from prospective companies, who have essentially been prevented from entering the market due to strict regulations and the current structure, has the potential to drive down cost for not only OTC hearing aids, but for all hearing aids.
- According to census data, there are fewer than 20,000 hearing aid dispensing professionals in the U.S. There simply are not enough hearing health care professionals to care for 48 million people with hearing loss.
HLAA says that it is in full support of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, stating that it will “transform the face of hearing health care as we know it” to the benefit of consumers across the country.