New York could take a step this year in expanding access to hearing aids for a growing number of people with hearing impairment, says The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), Alexandria, Va. Assemblymen Jeff Dinowitz of the Bronx and Micah Kellner of New York recently introduced a bill that, should the New York Legislature adopt it, would open up an additional point of access to hearing aid services—physicians’ offices.

“Physicians’ offices are a key access point for patients entering the hearing health system," said Dinowitz in a statement released by AAO-HNS. "With only one in four people adopting hearing aids who could benefit from them and the number of hearing-impaired on the rise, we need to provide those in need of hearing aids every opportunity to get them.

"Patients are not being well-served by the existing law, which is anti-business and anti-consumer,” he added.

A state law—the only of its kind in the country—prohibits physicians who medically evaluate hearing loss from deriving a profit from hearing aid sales, the statement said, adding that, as a result, few, if any, physicians’ offices offer hearing aid services to their patients since doing so is economically unworkable despite their being an appropriate and convenient setting for consumers.

Dinowitz and Kellner outlined multiple benefits of a change to the law, including enhancing patients’ access to treatment services and increasing competition among providers, potentially driving down the cost for hearing aids for patients, according to the statement.

Additionally, patients would be able to have continuity of care provided by their physicians, which is particularly advantageous when patients have complex medical conditions, said the statement. The AAO-HNS notes that a 2009 Consumer Reports article indicated that the best provider of hearing aids is a medical office headed by an otolaryngologist (ENT physician) with an audiologist on staff—an unlikely option in New York unless the law is changed. (Click here to see article about Consumer Reports study in HR archive.)

Dinowitz represents the 81st Assembly District, comprised of the Bronx. He chairs the Assembly Aging Committee, and serves on the Assembly Health, Judiciary, and Election Law Committees. Kellner represents the 65th Assembly District, located in New York City. He is a member of the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection, Environmental Conservation, Banks, and Cities Committees.

The AAO-HNS represents nearly 12,000 physicians and allied health professionals who specialize in diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose, throat, and related structures of the head and neck.

[Source: AAO-HNS]