OTC Hearing Aids Could Help Lower Hearing Loss Stigma

The proposed rules for over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids sparked much conversation throughout the industry. In this piece for HHTM, I share my take: While not appropriate for everyone, OTC hearing aids fill an important gap in the marketplace for hearing care. Their emergence should spark a wave of innovation and price competition, perhaps even jumpstarting a communication specialist approach to audiological care. Increased options for hearing devices could also lead to increased uptake and reduced stigma.

My hope is that audiologists will embrace OTC hearing aids, welcoming everyone who desires to hear better into their practices. When the overall market grows, everyone benefits.

An excerpt from the article is below. Read the full post at FindHearing on HHTM.


Why Should You Care about OTC Devices?

1. Increased competition

More competition is typically good for consumers, often sparking innovation and lowering prices. Large consumer electronic companies are eager to enter the hearing space and many already have. For example, earlier this year, Bose launched an OTC hearing aid. Apple does not (yet) market its AirPods Pro as hearing aids, but they function like ones in certain situations. Products like these put extra focus on hearing enhancement in difficult listening situations, pushing traditional devices to up their game as well.

A new OTC channel will likely push traditional hearing aid companies to broaden their product assortment too. I expect they will create lower priced offerings marketed under different brand names that include streamlined features for the mild to moderate hearing loss consumer. As competition picks up in both channels, people with hearing loss will benefit from a wider array of offerings at a variety of price points.

2. Reduced stigma

As using hearing assistance become more commonplace, the stigma surrounding hearing devices will lessen for everyone. And as people become accustomed to hearing better in difficult listening situations, demand for accommodations like hearing loops and closed captioning could grow too, boosting access for all of us.

3. More service-oriented audiologists

With devices available across multiple channels, the audiologist role will evolve into that of a communication specialist. Expertise in rehabilitation, counseling, and the softer side of hearing loss (non-technical skills like self-advocacy) will take center stage. With higher demand, perhaps these services will even be covered by insurance over time.

For more reasons, continue reading on HHTM.

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