Mr President: Your advisors were wrong about hearing aids
Editor's note: The following editorial was written by the president of Healthy Hearing. This letter was submitted to the President of the United States and members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in regards to recent discussions regarding hearing healthcare reform.
Dear Mr. President,
As a licensed audiologist and the president of Healthy Hearing, it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s (PCAST) initial report on Aging America & Hearing Loss: Imperative of Improved Hearing Technologies.
After reading the report, I was disappointed and concerned to see that the recommendations made by PCAST completely missed the mark.
Summary of the PCAST report on hearing aid technology
The council reported hearing loss as a major health and social problem; and left untreated, hearing loss is associated with social isolation, falls, depression and cognitive decline. The council cited two factors as the major barriers to treatment: the cost of hearing aids (approximately $2400 per device) and the lack of coverage by Medicare and insurance. The study proposed the following recommendations to reduce cost to consumers, increase the number of people who use hearing aids and stimulate innovation and technology development:
What the PCAST committee got wrong about hearing aids
I do appreciate the work of PCAST, and it’s encouraging to see hearing health being considered a serious matter. However, as a professional in the audiology field for almost 20 years, I can confidently say these recommendations will accomplish none of the stated objectives, for the following reasons:
It does not surprise me that I do not agree with the committee’s recommendations, as this specific PCAST committee was composed of a large number of computer technologists, biologists and physicists, with some additional experts on aging. There were no committee members who had any extensive experience in the hearing loss or hearing aid fields from industry, clinical, research or consumer perspectives. The PCAST committee therefore lacked any applied or scientific experience with hearing loss and treatment.
My recommendations for improving access to hearing aid technology
I respectfully suggest the following recommendations would make a more positive impact on persons with hearing loss and their families. These recommendations are based on scientific and economic data, as well as my experience as a practitioner and researcher in the hearing healthcare field.
I am thankful for the initial work PCAST has done to shed light on hearing loss awareness. I would like to see the discussion reframed with input from practicing hearing care professionals, experts in the field of auditory research and persons with hearing loss. Together, we can recommend policy on this important health issue that could actually improve the lives of over 30 million Americans with hearing loss.
Paul Dybala, PhD
President, Healthy Hearing
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