The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), a national organization representing people with hearing loss, has announced that it enthusiastically endorses a new report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
According to HLAA, the recommendations in the report, titled “Aging America & Hearing Loss: Imperative of Improved Technologies,” will serve to open the market for new innovation in hearing device technologies and also increase choice for consumers of hearing aids, both essential strategies long espoused by HLAA that are necessary to enhance hearing health care.
HLAA reports that the PCAST findings focus on the nearly 30 million adults over the age of 60 who have age-related, progressive, mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Only a small percentage of people with hearing loss (about 15% — 30%, according to the PCAST report) seek treatment. There are several factors contributing to this low number, but the PCAST report points out that two of the driving factors are: 1) the market is characterized by high cost and low innovation, and 2) current distribution channels create a barrier to access.
As a result of their findings, the PCAST Council has made four recommendations in their report to the President:
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should approve a distinct class of hearing aids for over-the-counter (OTC) sales, without the current requirement for consultation with a “credentialed dispenser” such as an audiologist; ear, nose and throat specialist; or licensed hearing aid specialist.
- The FDA should withdraw its draft guidance on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). A PSAP is a wearable consumer electronic device intended for non-hearing impaired people to amplify sounds in certain environments. If effected, the 2013 guidance would forbid PSAP manufacturers from making claims about the functionality of the product in certain situations because those claims could label the device a “hearing aid.”
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should require hearing-aid dispensers who perform standard hearing tests and hearing aid fittings to provide the customer with a copy of their results at no additional cost and in a format that can be used by other dispensers and vendors.
- The FTC should define a process to authorize hearing aid vendors to obtain a copy of a customer’s hearing test results and programmable audio profile from any audiologist who performs such a test, and do so at no additional cost to the customer.
“The findings of this report are clearly in line with HLAA’s mission, which is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss,” said Anna Gilmore-Hall, HLAA executive director. “The individual and cumulative effects of these recommendations will serve as an important step in raising public awareness around the issues of hearing loss, expanding consumer choice, and driving change in the marketplace.”
HLAA noted in its announcement that, while it supports this “groundbreaking” report from PCAST, it also emphasizes that access to technology or hearing aids by consumers is not a substitute for following good hearing health care practices. The HLAA encourages people to see their primary care physician and their hearing health care provider for regular checkups. These recommendations, HLAA says, offer people who have a mild-to-moderate, gradual, progressive hearing loss another option to address their needs. They serve to break down barriers and provide greater access to a variety of solutions for people with hearing loss.
HLAA further notes that the PCAST recommendations serve as an important step to bringing about much-needed change in hearing health care, but in order to be effective they must be implemented. In the interest of the largest group of HLAA constituents – consumers – the organization hopes to engage all stakeholders to ensure everything possible is being done to put the recommendations of the PCAST report into action.
It is noteworthy that HLAA’s strong support of the PCAST report and its recommendations is in direct opposition to the views of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), as reported in an October 23, 2015 article in The Hearing Review. The HIA issued a white paper that outlines the reasons for its strong opposition to the PCAST recommendations. The HIA white paper, “Patient Care and Positive Outcomes: The Focus of Hearing Health,” can be viewed on the HIA website.
The full PCAST report, can be accessed here. HLAA’s position on Emerging Technology, Screening for Hearing Loss in Primary Care Settings, and Medicare Coverage of Hearing Aids can be found on the HLAA website.