In an era of diminishing health care benefits, some progressive legislation was recently introduced in the Senate. Sponsored by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), the bipartisan Hearing Health Accessibility Act (S1617) moves hearing health care awareness into the national arena. Endorsed by both the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), passage of the bill would give Medicare recipients the right to see either an audiologist or a physician for hearing health care services. Current Medicare requirements state that individuals with balance or hearing disorders must obtain a physician referral before seeing an audiologist. Since most Medicare recipients are elderly or physically impaired, their limited incomes sometimes prohibit the number of times they can see a medical professional. As a result, many of these individuals often allow the severity of their hearing loss to go undiagnosed and treated. This pending legislation recognizes that when specific medical care is not required, audiologists are specialists with the proper knowledge and tools to evaluate and treat these individuals.
If S1617 passes, it will not only benefit audiologists, but other hearing health care professionals as well, such as researchers, educators, dispensers, and manufacturers. As hearing health care issues finally move into the forefront of government concern, public awareness will heighten. In turn, the marketplace will be favorably stimulated as goods and services are demanded. Hopefully, additional benefits of this greater audiological health consciousness will be education for all age levels, which will provide information on hearing protection, as well as updates on the latest medical and technological hearing loss solutionsfrom assistive listening devices to hearing aids to cochlear implantsavailable to suit individual needs.
In the meantime, Hearing Products Report will once again be exhibiting at the American Academy of Audiologys 16th annual convention from March 31 through April 3 in Salt Lake City. Please come by our booth and say hello.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Rogena Schuyler Silverman