As you probably know, there’s a major national push to allow consumer access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. At Amplifon Hearing Health Care, we know this holds major implications for our network providers, and we’re pursuing a number of initiatives to make sure your interests are represented in the discussion.
Primary advocates of OTC hearing aids include the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In addition, on March 21, a bill entitled “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017” was re-introduced in the Senate by Sens. Warren (D-MA), Grassley (R-IA), Hassan (D-NH) and Isakson (R-GA); this bill follows a similar one introduced previously. A companion bill was also introduced in the House by Reps. Kennedy (D-MA), Carter (R-GA) and Blackburn (R-TN). If signed into law, OTC legislation would allow consumers to obtain hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss without the involvement of hearing healthcare professionals.
While increasing hearing aid affordability is the main motivation for OTC proposals, we believe those proposals do not adequately consider the potential negative impacts on public health, patient safety and outcomes. We base these conclusions on consumer research conducted by Dr. Thomas Tedeschi, Au.D., Vice President, Training and Development at Amplifon Americas, and Jan Kihm, MS, President, Az Marketing Research. Among the study’s key findings:
- Only one out of four individuals correctly self-diagnosed the degree of their hearing loss and whether their loss was bilateral or unilateral. In other words, three out of four individuals had a hearing loss different from what they self-perceived, preventing them from getting the best hearing solution.
- As a result of trying to self-diagnose and self-select a hearing solution, customer satisfaction was half of what was reported by those who had the support of a hearing healthcare professional, and two out of three patients were later found not to use their hearing aids regularly.
You can find more detail in an article posted by The Hearing Review.
These findings are in line with the experience of other countries that allow OTC hearing aid sales. For example, in Japan., where individuals can buy hearing aids without the services of a licensed professional, hearing aid adoption rates are significantly lower than what we currently see in the United States.
At Amplifon, we’re continuing our efforts to publicize the results of the consumer study, while working with other organizations and associations to educate lawmakers and government agencies about the inherent risks of OTC hearing aids.
Finally, we want to assure you that regardless of any regulatory or legislative changes, we believe there is tremendous opportunity for you, our network partners. Consumers will continue to seek the hands-on, high-quality hearing healthcare services that ensure satisfactory outcomes — services that only you can provide.
If you have any questions about our advocacy initiatives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.