Editorial Roundup: More accessible hearing aids a welcome change

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

It took a while to listen to the message of advocates, but the federal government has finally approved a rule that allows an over-the-counter hearing aid option.

Hearing loss isn’t usually covered by insurance or basic Medicare like other medical conditions — another curse of our messy health care system. So the Food and Drug Administration approval last week of a rule that allows OTC hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss is welcome action. The regulation creates a new class of hearing aids that don’t require a medical exam, prescriptions and other evaluations.

Medical experts are well aware of the negative effects of not restoring hearing. From social isolation to cognitive dysfunction, hearing is an important sense that people rely on to carry on daily life.

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Nearly 30 million adults could potentially benefit from a hearing aid, the FDA estimates, but only about one-fifth of people with hearing problems now use one. The cost has just been too prohibitive for many people, with $5,000 or so for a hearing aid, between the device and fitting services. Advocates for the OTC devices have been awaiting action since it was proposed in 2016.

The hearing aids are expected to become available this fall, so many people soon will be able to access the devices they couldn’t afford or because they were required to see a specialist first.

Consumers will be able to pick up the devices at big-box stores and drugstores all over the country or order them online. The added competition among device manufacturers also should benefit consumers and encourage technological advancement.

The more readily accessible hearing aids aren’t meant for everyone. Severe hearing loss still needs the attention of a medical professional, and those hearing aids will remain prescription only. But to those people who have more minor hearing issues, the FDA action was good news to hear and will be a game changer.

Mankato Free Press, Aug. 22

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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