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12 Steps To Make ‘Hearing Health’ More Accessible

World Wide Hearing

This article was contributed in support of Doppler Labs.

With our world becoming louder and louder, we’re at a greater risk for developing hearing loss, with those in developing countries even more susceptible.

However, over the last year, there’s been increasingly more attention paid to issues surrounding hearing health care. The World Health Organization reported that 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing hearing loss, bringing much-needed awareness to the scope of this global epidemic.

Following that report, the Health Division of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)—an institution that helps shape policy and inform public opinion with objective, independent advising—published a report elucidating the need for improved access and affordability for hearing health care.

The foundation of NASEM’s report was a set of 12 recommendations intended to advise “institutional, technological, and regulatory changes that would enable consumers to find and fully use the appropriate, affordable, and high-quality services, technologies and support they need.”

The 12 Recommendations (all recommendations are of equal importance and are not prioritized)

  • 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 the Food and Drug Administration’s Regulation for Medical Evaluation or Waiver

  • 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

  • Implement a New Food and Drug Administration Device Category for Over-The-Counter Wearable Hearing Devices

  • Improve the Compatibility and Interoperability of Hearing Technologies with Communication Systems and the Transparency of Hearing Aid Programming

  • Improve Affordability of Hearing Health Care

  • 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

These 12 recommendations are a big step towards establishing more accessible and affordable hearing health care. This framework—with some adjustments for economic and cultural considerations—could be applied to improve hearing health care practices globally.

As a response to NASEM’s report, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reexamining its existing rigid guidelines around hearing health care, specifically around regulatory expectations of hearing aid medical devices and hearing health care practices. While there have been several hearings in Washington D.C. on this issue, the FDA is interested in gathering input from affected consumers to better understand if the proposed health care changes would benefit them in the long-term.

The FDA wants to hear more stories like the one from KR Liu, Doppler Labs’ Director of Accessibility and Advocacy, whose letter to the FDA was not only a testimony for the importance of restructuring the hearing health guidelines, but also provided a platform for Global Citizens, their friends, and their families to share their own stories with hearing loss or inaccessible and expensive hearing health care.