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OTC Hearing Aids May Stimulate Demand for Audiology Services

Spoor, Alicia D.D., AuD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000547397.29090.54

Dr. Spoor is the president of Designer Audiology in Highland, MD. She earned her Doctor of Audiology degree from Gallaudet University. She is the president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and was the first recipient of the Craig W. Johnson Advocacy Award.

AuDacity 2017 focused on disruptions specifically related to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices and offered many suggestions to ensure audiologists view OTC products as opportunities. Soon after AuDacity, the hearing health care provider groups— the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and International Hearing Society (IHS)—gathered and passionately discussed OTC devices. The outcome of the four meetings was a published consensus paper, Regulatory Recommendations for OTC Hearing Aids: Safety and Effectiveness, that includes five recommendations to ensure OTC devices are safe and effective for consumers.

ADA has been a longstanding advocate for expanded consumer choice and best practices in the delivery of hearing and balance care, and we are extremely gratified to see alignment within the provider community toward achieving these goals. OTC hearing devices have the ability to help the more than 70 percent of adults aged 70 years and older who can benefit from amplification but do not use hearing aids (NIDCD, 2016). Additionally, the delivery of OTC devices will likely reduce the cost for entry-level products and conceivably decrease the cost of amplification when purchased by an audiologist. Audiologists now have the unique opportunity to place a value on the service component of amplification, regardless of where products are purchased. The introduction of OTC hearing devices may promote hearing health care across the country in a more meaningful way. The working group members aren't sitting around waiting for this to happen. At the time of this writing, plans are under way to meet with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and key members of the U.S. Congress who have an interest in hearing health care and OTC hearing devices.

As ADA and the other provider groups wait for the FDA to issue proposed regulations related to OTC hearing devices, ADA will continue to work toward accessibility and affordability within the profession of audiology through the passage of the Audiology Patient Choice Act (HR 2276/S. 2575). When enacted, the APCA will provide Medicare Part B beneficiaries with the same direct access to audiologists and provide coverage for audiology services as other third-party insurances include. Additionally, it will add audiologists to the list of physicians recognized under Medicare, allowing Limited Licensed Physician Status when the audiologist is acting within her/his state-defined scope of practice.

While the discussion of OTC hearing devices and the consensus paper will likely fill AuDacity's breaks this year, the majority of this year's convention will focus more on patients, specifically co-morbidities and the value of service. Don't miss Lia James’ interactive session on Building the Audiology Brand Tuesday and one of the innovative break-out sessions on Wednesday. And if you want to talk more about OTC hearing devices, Dr. Jacqueline Scholl's three-hour session on “Threat Hunting OTCs” will be for you. Come find me sitting toward the front of the session, taking notes for my private practice.

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