Have you or someone you know struggled to afford hearing aids?
The cost of hearing aids prevent about 80% of Deaf and hard of hearing people from being able to purchase them. There are very few manufacturers that make hearing aids, and the majority of state laws require them to be sold by a licensed audiologist.
Due to a lack of competition in the market, manufacturers are able to sell them at costly rates to make a profit.
In March 2017, a bipartisan group in the Senate introduced a bill to make hearing aids more affordable by allowing them to be sold over-the-counter. The OTC hearing aids which are also called Personal sound amplification products would be much more affordable for Deaf and Hard of hearing individuals. But there are pros and cons about OTC hearing aids, so we reached out to Becky Larsen who is an audiologist at Phoenix Day School for the Deaf in Arizona and is also a CODA. Becky shared her professional opinion on over-the-counter hearing aids.
I think over-the-counter hearing aids are a good option for some people who have mild hearing loss mostly related to aging. But for those people who have more moderate to severe profound hearing loss, it’s better to sit down with an audiologist to get the right diagnosis for that person.
Also most importantly, OTC hearing aids should not be used for children. That is a big concern for audiologists that parents might decide not to see an audiologist and choose to get OTC hearing aids believing it’s good enough for their children instead. No, that is not a good option because children cannot tell us what’s wrong or if the sound doesn’t seem right. Older children can inform us what the issues are, but younger children cannot.
There have been many audiologists who have spoken out against OTC hearing aids because many individuals needs may not be treated appropriately. But deaf and hard of hearing individuals struggle getting hearing aids. Why is that? Becky shares her insight:
I believe the greatest barrier is insurance issues. Many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people feel frustrated not having insurance to cover the cost of hearing aids. For those who do have insurance, they may not have enough coverage or it doesn’t include hearing aids.
For those who have insurance, maybe some audiologist practices offer in-house financial support where they can make monthly payments. You might be able to ask the audiologist when you visit their office if they offer that kind of financial support.
For those who do not have insurance, there are some resources available in your state. For example, there is a website called www.betterhearing.org. Again, that’s www.betterhearing.org. They have a publication from 2009 with 47 different organizations that provide financial support for purchasing hearing aids.
It is common in the deaf community, especially with adults, to struggle trying to pay for the cost of expensive hearing aids. As Becky mentions, there are many ways to find the resources available.
Do you think the over-the-counter hearing aids will be beneficial and cost saving? How can we as a community demand quality hearing aids without being charged unfair prices?