The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) kicked off its 2016 National Convention in Washington, DC with a plenary session on recent groundbreaking reports issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the Academies) and the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Policy (PCAST).
More than 1,200 people attended the convention, which was also a joint event with The International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH). Leading the plenary session was the Academies' Committee Chairperson Dr. Dan G. Blazer, who gave a comprehensive account of their findings and recommendations on hearing health care affordability and accessibility.
"Our goal was to say, 'People who are purchasing services, including purchases for hearing aid, need to know what they're paying for,' and that's the bottom line," said Dr. Blazer on the recommendation to unbundle audiologist and hearing aid charges.
"What we love about this report is that the person with hearing loss is front and center, and it really makes hearing loss a primary health concern – and that's what we've been talking about for a long time," HLAA Executive Director Barbara Kelley told The Hearing Journal. "Now we have a report that is evidence-based to back us up and we are really happy about that."
Dr. Susan Graham discussed the implications of the PCAST report, including the recommendation to modify FDA guidelines to allow over-the-counter "basic" hearing aid sale.
"Within the FDA, they have a lot of differing opinions about these issues – just as the audiology community has a lot of different opinions," Dr. Graham said. "But having the public speak up is always helpful."
Much of the PCAST report recommendations were sounded off in the Academies report.
"I think it's rather amazing that two very independent groups came to very similar conclusions," Dr. Blazer said. "These reports have the potential to have the legs to move if there is willingness to work together."
"There are oppositions from audiologists who are afraid of change in the business model and afraid they will lose their patients," Dr Graham told The Hearing Journal. "But they will have to change."
The two reports also stressed the importance of boosting access to hearing aid technology and personal sound amplification products.
"Our convention goers are people who want to learn about technology. They want to use amplification. They are motivated. They want to stay in the hearing world and they will do anything to help themselves hear well," explained Director Kelley. "We want to educate everybody and we hope to be able to take the lead in seeing that these recommendations be implemented."