In an article primarily aimed at otolaryngologists, two leading audiology researchers made the case that cost is not the primary barrier of low hearing aid uptake. The brief article, published online last week by JAMA-Otolaryngology, was authored by Michael Valente of Washington University School of Medicine and Amyn Amlani of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.
Their article served as a counterpoint to a February 1, 2017 JAMA-Otolaryngology article, written by non-audiologists Kenneth M. Grundfast, MD and Sara W. Liu, MA, emphasizing price as the primary hurdle to poor hearing aid adaptation among adults. The main focus of the article by Valente and Amlani was to provide otolaryngologists with data indicating cost is not the primary barrier to hearing aid adaptation.
Examining Barriers to Hearing Aid Use
The authors focused on three key points. One, in countries where hearing aids are subsidized through government intervention, hearing aid uptake is still relatively low. And, additionally, if the US was to start subsidizing hearing aids for all adults (it currently does so only for qualifying American veterans) market penetration would be estimated to increase by no more than 10%.
Although Valente and Amlani advocated for the use of PSAPs as entry-level devices, they emphasized that, unlike hearing aids, PSAPs do not have to meet a quality control specification. They also emphasized that hearing aids are purchased with an array of audiological follow-up procedures, which are unavailable to PSAP purchasers. It is these accompanying services, according to the authors, that in part represent the differences in cost between a hearing aid and PSAP purchase.
The authors, furthermore, supported the process of allowing audiologists to be the entry point for hearing-related services in order to reduce barriers to care. They suggested that if audiologists are the entry point for hearing care services, costs to the patient and taxpayer will be reduced and access to treatment will improve.
Finally, Valente and Amlani concluded their article by encouraging otolaryngologists to work collaboratively with audiologists on the complex issue of improving patient access to hearing services.