Hearing loss is finally being taken seriously, or at least the National Academy of Sciences is recommending that it should be. Last week, this private non-profit society of scholars issued a comprehensive report entitled, “Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability.”
The report highlights hearing as “a vital human sense that is important to communication and health and can affect quality of life,” yet one that is often overlooked, even by people with hearing loss, as 67-86% of people who could benefit from a hearing aid do not use one. The report goes on to declare hearing loss “a significant public health concern” and makes a series of recommendations for “institutional, technological and regulatory change to enable consumers to find and fully use the appropriate, affordable, and high-quality services, technologies, and support they need.”
It’s about time.
The report itself is quite lengthy, but you can find a Report in Brief here which summarizes the committee’s findings and recommended actions. You can read a more detailed discussion of their recommendations here.
I am excited to see hearing loss acknowledged as a critical human sense, important for health, well-being and quality of life. Those of us who have hearing loss know this to be true. The report also recognizes that for many people treating hearing loss is not an option due to poor access to services and high cost. The recommended actions are comprehensive, with some more realistic than others in the short-term, but all are important steps to improve the quality and accessibility of hearing health care for all.
Findings: (in no particular order or priority) Source: Report in Brief
- Hearing is vital to communication, health, function, and quality of life. Individuals need to be alert to their hearing health, as hearing loss can range from mild to profound and tends to increase with age, onset can be gradual, and each individual’s hearing needs are unique.
- Hearing health care involves a wide range of services and technologies with ever-expanding and evolving options; however, many people do not have access to these options or cannot afford them.
- Hearing loss is a public health and societal concern; engagement and action are needed across the spectrum of relevant stakeholders, including individuals and families, professionals, nonprofit organizations, industries, government, and the health care community.
Recommended Actions: (in no particular order or priority) Source: Report in Brief
- Improve population-based information on hearing loss and hearing health care
- Develop and promote measures to assess and improve quality of hearing health care services
- Remove FDA’s regulation for medical evaluation or waiver of that evaluation prior to hearing aid purchase
- Empower consumers and patients in their use of hearing health care
- Improve access to hearing health care for underserved and vulnerable populations
- Promote hearing health care in wellness and medical visits for those with concerns about their hearing
- Implement a new FDA device category for over-the-counter wearable hearing devices
- Improve the compatibility and interoperability of hearing technologies with communications systems and the transparency of hearing aid programming
- Improve affordability of hearing health care by actions across federal, state, and private sectors
- Evaluate and implement innovative models of hearing health care to improve access, quality, and affordability
- Improve publicly available information on hearing health
- Promote individual, employer, private sector, and community-based actions to support and manage hearing health and effective communication
This report is exciting news for those of with hearing loss, but questions remain. What happens next? Who decides how / if / when to implement these recommendations? What can we as consumers do to help push this along?
We can do a lot.
- Help publicize the report and its findings. Share the report on social media and discuss it with your friends and colleagues. The more that people are aware of the report, the more likely action will be taken.
- Reach out to your local and regional lawmakers to endorse the report. This can be done via email, letter or through your local hearing loss community.
- Continue to self-advocate with doctors, schools, airlines, restaurants and other service providers. The more that those of us with hearing loss discuss what we require, the more likely others are to accommodate our needs.
- Partner with non-profit organizations like Hearing Loss Association of America (one of the sponsors of the report) to show support for the recommendations. When we act together, our voices carry more weight.
Readers, are you excited by this new report?