The attempt to save money will hurt the hearing impaired

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Buying local is more than our electronics and food, it is about how it affects community and business. Most chains do not invest in local non-profits and other community institutions, according to Michael Kanter, co-founder of Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, Mass.

Our attempt to save money causes our local infrastructure to weaken and we lose businesses and local jobs — weakening our own economy. As consumers, we confuse what we want and how we can obtain it. You can’t have the best service at the cheapest price, but you can buy a product cheaply not expect any service.

In 2017 a law passed enabling the public to purchase over-the-counter hearing aids without the aid of a hearing exam — but only if they have a mild to moderate hearing loss.

The FDA has ruled that these devices can not be sold until the rules and regulations are written — the FDA has another two years to accomplish this.

In November of 2017, I had an Op Ed recommending regulations and in the past few months the major professional organizations who represent audiologists and hearing instrument specialists recommended slightly less stringent regulations for OTCs for a mild to moderate hearing loss.

The OTCs should minimize the strength of the instrument to target the population who only have a minimal amount of hearing loss. It should also limit further hearing damage with over amplification — this would lead to a progressive noise induced hearing loss.

This would mean that a professional audiologist would become obsolete, since patients would be able to obtain a hearing aid without them. By promoting hearing aids by taking out the audiologist we are also showing that all audiology is is a product.

On the flip side, obtaining a hearing aid using this method would make sense for some audiologist who don’t seem to care that much about their patients.

I know that there are professional audiologist who have found ways to circumvent brick and mortar establishments — they only fit a hearing aids and do not continue medical care. They only want to sell a product that will fit a certain percent of the population.  They use online hearing tests and no objective verification methods. Of course hearing exams online can be a great screening tool, but they should not be used in place of a diagnostic exam.

However, if the goal is to only fit a hearing aid and let technology take the lead, we lose best-fit verification through equipment that is uniquely calibrated. We also don’t have the follow up care that people need and often find out about well after the fact.

Also, my career I have found many reasons for a hearing loss such as middle ear disease, middle ear tumors, sensorineural hearing loss, acoustic nerve tumors and auditory processing disorders, which would never be found without the proper testing and knowledge.

The FDA has also stated that if an adult (over the age of 18) purchases a hearing aid, they can waive their right to a physician medically clearing them for a hearing aid. The FDA has not said they are lifting this recommendation, only that they will not enforce it moving forward.

The states and many insurance companies can still require this clearance and none of this applies to children, ever.

When we stop connecting a commodity with a health issue then we will be able to better help those who need it. Hearing loss is a condition that isn’t taken seriously.

Yes, hearing aids can be costly and everyone should be given options that fit within their budget. There are many audiologists who work tirelessly to make sure those who can not afford hearing aids are able to have access not only worldwide, but in their local communities as well.

But to have audiologists or hearing aid fitters who are not licensed in the state you live in (because there is no federal license) is not protecting the public or strengthening our local economy, in any capacity. It is only to sell devices and this is what has gotten audiology in the fix we are in.

Judy Huch is an audiologist and president of Oro Valley Audiology and Grace Hearing Center.


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