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Cutting through the noise about over-the-counter hearing aids


by Eric Gorton

 
Ayasakanta Rout in action

 

 

Guidelines for over-the-counter hearing aids, expected this year from the Food and Drug Administration, will make the devices much more accessible to the general public, but how prepared are people to make good choices? 

James Madison University researcher Ayasakanta Rout, who runs the only university-based laboratory in Virginia that researches hearing aids, says the relatively low cost of over-the-counter hearing aids will be the biggest benefit. 

Cost is the primary barrier preventing people from getting them, a cost not covered by Medicare or most insurance companies, said Rout, director of JMU's doctoral program in audiology. Hearing aids now require a hearing care provider’s prescription and cost thousands of dollars. Making them available over the counter could make them available for hundreds of dollars, Rout said. 

While over-the-counter devices will cost less, consumers won’t have the expertise of an audiologist to select the proper device and to program them to match individual hearing losses, Rout cautions. The proposed over-the-counter devices are meant to help adults with mild to moderate degrees of hearing loss and are likely to provide basic amplification without many of the signal processing features currently available in advanced hearing aids. 

Hearing loss affects about 38 million people and is a gradual process for most people, Rout said, and chronic hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the U.S. behind arthritis and cardiovascular issues. Hearing loss begins for people in their 20s, but generally is not noticeable until people reach their 60s. 

“Once you start to lose hearing, it is irreversible,” Rout said. 

Congress passed a law in 2017 directing the FDA to draft the regulations. The deadline for the regulations is August, but Rout said the agency could publish them much sooner.

 

About the Hearing Aid Research Laboratory at JMU 

The primary focus of the Hearing Aid Research Laboratory at JMU is to evaluate the benefits derived from high-end signal processing and user satisfaction with hearing aids. Other areas of research include perceived sound quality in individuals with cochlear hearing loss, and electroacoustic characteristics of hearing aids. The lab also works with the hearing aid industry to conduct efficacy and benchmarking studies on existing and emerging technologies.

 

 

Media contact: Eric Gorton, gortonej@jmu.edu, 540-908-1760

 

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Published: Thursday, February 20, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2020

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