FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2017
Bethesda, MD: The U.S. Senate today passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. The bill was already passed by the House of Representatives on July 12. With this groundbreaking legislation Congress has sent a message to America that people with hearing loss need – and deserve – more affordable and accessible hearing health care.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has supported the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act since it was introduced in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in March of this year. The companion House bill was introduced by Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
“Senators Warren and Grassley and Representatives Kennedy and Blackburn – among many others – have worked tirelessly to ensure passage of this bill,” said Barbara Kelley, HLAA executive director. “It is no secret that passing any type of legislation can many times be a long and laborious process because of party disagreements. However, this bill has moved quickly through Congress because both sides of the aisle realize how critically important and badly needed affordable and accessible hearing health care is to consumers.”
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 would make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter to adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. In addition, the proposed legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate this new category of OTC hearing aids to ensure they meet the same high standards for safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing protection that all other medical devices must meet. This will give consumers the option to purchase a safe, high-quality FDA-regulated device at lower cost.
Creating a new category of OTC hearing devices was one of the 12 recommendations in the report, Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability, issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) in June 2016, which HLAA fully supported.
Since this new category has not yet been created it is unclear how the devices will be defined. However, they should not be confused with products already on the market called PSAPs (Personal Sound Amplification Products). PSAPs cannot legally be marketed to people with hearing loss as a “hearing aid,” only to those with normal hearing as an amplification device.
Kelley continued, “Our consumer voices are powerful. HLAA has led the way for affordable and accessible hearing health care and applauds this historic effort. While it could take several years before the first products come to market we feel it’s important for the FDA to take the time they need to write regulations to ensure safety, efficacy and consumer protection.
“For years, our number one request has been from people who want hearing aids but can’t afford them. This legislation is a step in the right direction and offers hope that the cost of all hearing aids will go down with the anticipated market innovation and competition it will bring. Everyone who needs hearing aids should be able to have them to stay connected to family, remain on the job, and enjoy a high quality of life.”
Now that the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 has been passed by both the House and Senate it will go to the president to sign into law. Once the bill is signed into law it will go to the FDA, who will begin drafting the rules and regulations for it. While the FDA has three years to complete that process we are hopeful that it will be done much sooner.
Don’t Wait to Get Your Hearing Checked
If you think you have a hearing loss, do not wait for over-the-counter hearing aids to come to market. First, there will be an extended rulemaking period where anyone can comment after which the FDA has to evaluate and decide on the standards for an OTC device. Second, not everyone will be able to get help from an OTC device. HLAA recommends seeing an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist if you are having trouble on the phone, asking others to repeat, turning up the volume on your television, or showing other warning signs. Untreated hearing loss can cause falls, isolation, depression, anxiety, and it has been shown that there is a link to cognition. Hearing loss should be prevented, screened for, and treated without delay.
HLAA has been working diligently with lawmakers to have the consumer voice heard. We are currently working with the FDA on labeling of OTC products, product safety and consumer protection. The future of hearing health care is changing, allowing people to make informed choices. HLAA will ensure consumers have unbiased and factual information and updates about new products, regulations, and legislation as they develop.
About the Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), founded in 1979, opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy. HLAA holds annual conventions (HLAA2018 is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 21 – 24), produces Walk4Hearing events in 20 cities, publishes the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine, advocates for the rights of people with hearing loss, and has an extensive network of chapters and state organizations across the country. The national headquarters is located at 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1200, Bethesda, MD 20814. Phone 301.657.2248 or visit hearingloss.org.
LM Labs just posted a new project that you might be interested in!
At CES 2017, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation, IBM and Local Motors launched an initiative to make Olli, Local Motors’ autonomous cognitive bus, the world’s most accessible transportation vehicle, #AccessibleOlli. Over the past few months, we have held several workshops, hackathons and other outreach events to develop a better understanding of the transportation requirements for people of all ages and abilities.
Now it is time to take the next step - a call to action to join the #AccessibleOlli Challenge: Autonomous for All of Us. We need YOU to join the action. Give us your ideas to take Olli to the next level. You might be a technology company, industrial designer, fabricator, software developer or engineer. Or you might be a city planner, transit authority professional or public transportation rider that has an awe-inspiring idea to make Olli more accessible. So think small things, think big things, just make sure to think these things out loud in our Challenge. Olli is on the drawing board. Your input will help improve the rider experience, making it accessible for all.
Going beyond ramps and rails, we want to really push the envelope of what it means to be accessible for all by utilizing the latest AI innovations and IoT technologies together with deeper integration with IBM Watson. We are not content just to meet accessible compliance standards; rather our goal is to create the most accessible, personalized transportation experience while changing the way that people interact with mobility.
With 15 prizes awarded in 5 categories, each focusing on different areas of accessibility, there is plenty of room to go deep with your ideas, showcase your innovative solutions and win big!
So let’s get creating and make #AccessibleOlli Autonomous For All Of Us!
Why should you come to the NAD Leadership and Training Conference (NLTC)? #AskHoward
New York, NY – Christina Kielich of Alexandria, Virginia, filed suit today in federal district court against Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center Theater (“Lincoln Center”) alleging that the celebrated performance venues on multiple occasions denied her access based on disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and New York State and City law. Federal, state and local laws require performing arts venues such as Lincoln Center to ensure full and equal access to programming for individuals with disabilities. Kielich who is hard of hearing requires captioning in order to understand performances, but Lincoln Center has refused Kielich’s requests.
Kielich studied theater in the drama department at Catholic University, studied Shakespeare at Oxford University, and wrote her senior thesis on the role of women in Greek drama. She is an avid theater fan who enjoys a broad range of cultural events. In October 2015, Lincoln Center denied Kielich access to The King and I. In October 2016, Lincoln Center denied access to Oslo and in February and April 2017, Lincoln Center denied Kielich access to The Glass Menagerie. While hearing theater fans can purchase tickets to the performance of their choice, theater patrons with hearing disabilities have access only to very limited performances, none of which were accessible to Kielich.
“Just like everyone else who goes to the Lincoln Center, I appreciate good theatrical performances,” said Kielich. “I just want to be able to go there to enjoy the plays without barriers.” Kielich is represented by the National Association of the Deaf and Stein & Vargas, LLP.
Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf said, “Since 1990, Federal law has required theaters to provide communication access to deaf and hard of hearing patrons, yet Christina Kielich has to fight for her right to enjoy theater performances at Lincoln Center in 2017. Lincoln Center must do better and follow the law.”
National Association of the Deaf is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by, and for, deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States.
Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm based in Washington, D.C. and committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society.
Check out what some people think about NLTC. In case you can’t tell, we are so excited about the upcoming NLTC in Oklahoma City this October 5-7. Don’t forget, EARLY BIRD registration ends July 31st! Register today! #NLTC2017
U.S. House of Representatives Passes the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 Bringing Affordable and Accessible Hearing Health Care Closer to Reality
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017. With the passage of this groundbreaking legislation Congress has sent a message to America that people with hearing loss need – and deserve – more affordable and accessible hearing health care. The Senate should be voting on the bill before the end of the summer.
HLAA and the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) are working together to better serve our constituents’ needs and raise awareness of the effects of hearing loss. To get to know you better, HLAA and HHF have collaborated on a survey to learn a little more about you and your hearing loss.
The survey takes less than five minutes and your answers are completely anonymous. You can take the survey online at hhf.org/survey. If you would prefer to mail it in, that’s fine too. Simply print the survey, fill it out, and mail it to:
Hearing Health Foundation
363 Seventh Avenue, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Included in the survey are a few questions related to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. Given that this is such a hot topic right now getting your feedback is extremely important, so take just a few minutes and give us your input today!
July 10, 2017
President Melvin Walker
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID)
333 Commerce Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
President Miako Rankin
Center for Assessment of Sign Language Interpreters (CASLI)
333 Commerce Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Mr. Walker and Ms. Rankin,
Our organizations jointly write to inquire about the status of and plans for the National Interpreter Certification (NIC). The August 4, 2015 decision by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to place the NIC on a moratorium has had a significantly adverse impact on the Deaf and hard of hearing community, sign language interpreters, aspiring sign language interpreters and entities that rely on the certification to protect the quality of sign language interpreting services within their organization, state, or areas of service.
Although the newly created Center for Assessment of Sign Language Interpreters (CASLI) indicated it would accept applications for the NIC examination beginning October 1, 2016 and resume the interview and performance test exams on November 1, 2016, there continues to be confusion, and many have not yet learned of, or are just beginning to learn of, the current status of the NIC program.
This uncertainty and lack of information regarding the status and stability of the NIC certification program has had a direct and significant impact on the following constituencies:
- Deaf or hard of hearing consumers that seek to have a means of measuring qualifications in the sign language interpreters that they use in everyday life;
- communities living in states that have laws or regulations requiring interpreters to hold national certifications;
- sign language interpreting agencies that require interpreters to hold national certifications;
- businesses that seek to hire sign language interpreters holding national certifications;
- state advocacy efforts to enact legislation for sign language licensure that require national certificate requirements; and
- interpreter training programs that are being affected in terms of student enrollment due to the uncertainty of certification and/or licensure after graduation.
RID’s decisions regarding its certification programs have a significant impact across our constituencies. Without clear and public information regarding the status and future of the NIC program, these impacted constituencies are searching for options. Consequently, it is imperative that the RID and CASLI take further action to share information to reassure these affected parties.
Specifically, the undersigned organizations ask for the following:
- Public and transparent information about current status of the NIC We request that the RID and CASLI provide via regular and widely public communications, beginning immediately, an update on the current status of the NIC including clear details about the resumption of the NIC testing.
- Public and transparent information about updates & changes to the NIC We also request that RID and CASLI provide via regular and widely public communications their plans for the long term future of the NIC certification. Based on its announcement from July 1, 2016, CASLI indicated that, “The NIC has approximately another two years in its life cycle”1, and the community needs to understand what is planned to sustain the reliability, validity and relevance of the NIC certification beyond such described life cycle.
- Public and transparent information regarding sustainability in operations We request that RID and CASLI provide via regular and widely public communications their plans to ensure structural, operational and financial stability of both RID and CASLI to ensure there are no further moratoriums or adverse impact on national certification.
We, the undersigned organizations and businesses, urge RID and CASLI to provide such critical information through frequent and widely public communications, including communications in American Sign Language, to restore confidence among all of these stakeholders in the NIC certification. Although this letter is specifically focused on the NIC, given the general confusion due to the lack of information and communication to date on this specific certification, we also express concerns about the moratoriums on the SC:L, EdK-12 and CDI certifications and also call on RID and CASLI to provide frequent and widely public updates on the status of these certification programs.
We thank you for your attention to this matter and request a response by August 11, 2017. Your response will help our organizations determine our next steps in making our respective decisions pertaining to the NIC certification managed by RID and CASLI.
Lisa Schaefermeyer, BA, CI & CT
Absolute Quality Interpreting (AQI)
Helen Young, Chief Executive Officer
Accurate Interpreting Services
Jenée Alleman, President
American Association of the DeafBlind
Pamela Nygren Wellumson, CSC, CEO
American Sign Language Interpreting Services
President & CEO
American Sign Language Services Corporation /DBA ASL Services Inc.
Keri Brooks, President
On behalf of the 2017-2019 Board of American Sign Language Teachers Association
Sharaine Roberts, President
Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA)
Byung Gyu Lim, President
Bay Area Deaf Asian Association
Sign Language Interpreting Program Bethel College
Chief Executive Officer
California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCASDHH)
Flavia S. Fleischer, Ph.D.,
Chair & Associate Professor
Deaf Studies Department California State University, Northridge
Cerebral Palsy and Deaf Organization (CPADO)
Andy Olson and
CODA Brothers Interpreting
Everett Puckett and
Communication Axess Ability Group (CAAG)
Chief Executive Officer
Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD)
Convo Communications, LLC
Rogelio Fernandez, President
Council de Manos
Karl Kosiorek, MA, CI & CT, President and Owner
Deaf Access Solutions (DAS)
Marcy Colton, Executive Director
Deaf Communication by Innovation
Neil McDevitt, Executive Director and
Charles McFadden, Board Chair
Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, Inc.
Thomas Horejes, Ph.D.,
Deaf Empowerment Awareness Foundation (DEAF, Inc.)
Dawn Schriver, and
Philip J. Wolfe,
Deaf Grassroots Movement
Ella Mae Lentz, Organizing Chair
Nancy B. Rarus, President
Deaf Seniors of America
Deaf Services of Palo Alto
Melissa Yingst, President
Deaf Women United
Chief Executive Officer/Owner
Friends Interpreting Services, LLC
Nashiru Abdulai, President
Global Deaf Muslims
Full Board & Volunteer Advocates from Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York & Texas
Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of Deaf communities (HEARD)
Erin K. Stauder,
The Hearing and Speech Agency
Tamar H Lani, MBA, CI, CI, NIC, SC:L, President
Jeffrey Buxbaum, President
Jewish Deaf Organization
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Jimmy Beldon, CDI, M.Ed, Co-owner/Chief Operation Officer
Keystone Interpreting Solutions, Inc.
Rogelio Fernandez, President
Melissa Draganac-Hawk, President
National Association of the Deaf
National Black Deaf Advocates, Inc.
Professional Interpreting Enterprise
Allyne Betancourt, Chief Executive Officer
Kajika Interpreting Services, LLC
Chad Taylor, Queen Bee
Joanne Sharer, CI & CT, President & Owner
Sign Language Resource Services, Inc. (SLRS)
Daniel D. Burch, Ph.D., SC:L, Former RID President Vice President
Sign Language Services International, Inc.
Vice President of Interpreting
Sorenson Communications, LLC
Jeffrey Bravin, Executive Director and
Sara C. Gerhold, CDI, Program Manager
Source Interpreting at the American School for the Deaf
Keri Brooks, CEO and
J. Sam Harris, COO
TRUE-BIZ ASL, LLC
Linda K. Stauffer, Ph.D., CSC, OTC, Professor and Program Coordinator BA – ASL/English Interpreting
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Joyce Dworsky, CEO/Owner
Vital Signs LLC
Ruann L. Wood, B.S.; RID: NIC-Adv; SC:L, Candidate CEO/Owner
Visual Communication Interpreting, Inc.
Sherri Turpin, Chief Executive Officer
ZVRS and Purple Communications
What does the new proposed health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), mean for the deaf and hard of hearing community if passed? The Senate postponed the vote until after July 4th, so we must contact our Senators NOW.
Have you read a poem written by Angeline Fuller Fischer? #deafhistoryTHAT #ASLstories
The NAD Internship Program is designed for college students and recent graduates interested in gaining valuable experience in a creative, fast-paced nonprofit organization. The interns bring a diverse set of experiences, skills, and most importantly, a willingness to learn and to contribute to our mission and goals.
(L-R: Nathaniel, Claudia, Lena, Jeremy, Nida, Ernesto, and Shirley)
As a deaf person, Nida has experienced and seen discrimination against the deaf community, especially in education, employment, mental health, and healthcare. Nida strongly believes that deaf people should be given a fair chance to show their abilities, develop their personalities, and live their life to the fullest. Nida has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Consulting and Change Management at the University of Texas (Hook ‘em Horns!) in Austin. Nida just completed her first-year attending the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. After finishing law school in the next two years, Nida plans to advocate to promote a fully accessible world for deaf people. Nida appreciates the opportunity to be this year’s Nancy J. Bloch Scholarship intern.
Claudia was born and raised in the Garden State, in Southern Jersey specifically, where she grew up loving to eat fresh sweet corn with her family. Claudia recently graduated from Gallaudet University in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies and Family Child Studies. Claudia was raised by a single hearing mother, who learned American Sign Language, incorporated Deaf Culture, and engaged with our deaf community. Claudia believes that it is important to ensure that all families with deaf and hard of hearing children have access to resources they need. During her internship, she works closely with Tawny Holmes, NAD Education Policy Counsel, to learn these tools to better support and collaborate with professionals and parents. The internship experience has allowed her to appreciate the hard work and efforts of being an advocate.
Nathaniel is originally from New York City and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Nathaniel is a senior at Gallaudet University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies. He is thrilled to have an opportunity to intern with Zainab Alkebsi, NAD Policy Counsel. Nathaniel looks forward to completing his projects and learning about current policy issues impacting our deaf community. After graduation, he wants to work for a non-profit organization. With this internship, he hopes to gain a crystal-clear understanding of how a non-profit organization works and how to advocate for the community’s needs in different areas. Nathaniel enjoys working with people and making a difference in as many ways as possible.
Lena was born in the Philippines before moving to the United States with her family. In high school, after reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the second time, Lena knew that she wanted to be an attorney to advocate for others. Lena graduated from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. While at UCLA, Lena took some American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf History courses and fell in love with Deaf Culture. Eventually, Lena decided to pursue a career in deaf advocacy and deaf rights. Lena moved to Washington, D.C. in August 2016, and is currently a law student at The George Washington University Law School (GW). For her internship, Lena is working closely with the NAD Law and Advocacy Center to advocate for the legal rights of deaf and hard of hearing people across the United States. When Lena isn’t at work, you can find her at home reading the latest book on social psychology, or watching a stand-up special on Netflix.
Victoria Morel (not pictured)
Victoria was born and raised in upstate New York and is going into her third year at the Rochester Institute of Technology, studying to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology. Victoria is considering a career in disability rights advocacy, specifically for the deaf community. Victoria seized the opportunity to intern at one of the nation’s premier civil rights organization, the NAD, with Anna Bitencourt (NAD Attorney). Victoria met Anna during #NAD2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Victoria is extremely thankful to be involved in experiencing a diverse work environment and deaf culture since she grew up oral in a strong Dominican family whose primary languages were English and Spanish while attending mainstream schools. After her internship, Victoria will be the Director of Academic Affairs in the NTID’s Student Congress (NSC) at RIT for the 2017-2018 school year.
Ernesto graduated from the California School for the Deaf – Riverside (CSDR) and is currently a student at the National Technical Institute of the Deaf / Rochester Institute of Technology (NTID/RIT). Ernesto studies Business Technology and is the manager of the RIT Women’s volleyball team. He was born and raised in Oxnard, California. Ernesto loves indoor volleyball, beach volleyball, hiking, art, and movies! He believes this internship is an amazing opportunity for him to network and gain valuable experience.
Shirley Ann Shannon Martinez
Shirley was born in Altamonte Springs, Florida and moved to Puerto Rico when she was six years old. She attended a deaf school, Colegio San Gabriel, in San Juan for three years. Eventually, she moved to a mainstream school as the only deaf student in beautiful Aguadilla where she grew up. Aguadilla will always be home for her. Shirley studied at the University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla for four years, studying Elementary Education. Later, she transferred to Gallaudet University in the Fall of 2013 and recently graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies. Gallaudet University was an enriching experience because it helped Shirley learn more about her deaf identity. Shirley modeled for Miss and Mister Deaf International representing Miss Puerto Rico in July 2016 in Las Vegas. She won the title as Miss Deaf America. She plans to return to Puerto Rico with the goal of supporting the deaf community.
Jeremy grew up in Fairfax, Virginia and recently graduated from Gallaudet University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Studies. Jeremy believes this internship provides a great opportunity to better understand how the NAD works behind the scenes. He had not been involved with the NAD until now! He appreciates working with the other interns and enjoys discussing projects together. Jeremy’s hobbies include watching WWE and relaxing outside when the weather allows.
ADVOCACY TIP: What is the quickest way to find your U.S. Congress representative’s contact information if you have any concerns related to a legislative bill? The NAD summer interns will show you how! #takebackdeafed #legislativesavvy #deafed #advocacytip #UScongress
Melissa brings your attention to the re-authorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act and invites you to the next NAD Leadership and Training Conference this October in Oklahoma City. For the first time ever at NLTC, we will have a Racial Justice pre-conference training session and regional mini-conferences!
View Tawny’s video alert here.
Explore NLTC Website here.
Can you ask for an interpreter for a conference? What about the doctor’s office? The answer is effective communication must be provided. When you find yourself in that situation, we have different advocacy letters available for you to use and show to the person responsible. Explore our Advocacy Letters. #AskHoward
Barbara Kelley, executive director of Hearing Loss Association of America told NBC News that it is vital for Congress to act to provide millions of Americans with hearing loss with affordable, quality hearing aids.Watch full interview - Captioned
Watch full interview - Not Captioned
There are 48 million people with hearing loss in America, and up to 85 percent of people who could benefit from a hearing aid don't use one. To solve the problem, lawmakers are considering a less expensive, over-the-counter option.
Story aired May 22 on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.Watch video
How did deaf schools flourish? What were some ways to travel? How were news from different parts of the nation shared with other deaf people? #deafhistoryTHAT #ASLstories
Melissa Draganac-Hawk (Pennsylvania), a first-generation American of deaf immigrant Peruvian parents, received a master’s degree in Linguistics and two bachelor’s degrees in Theater Production & Performance and American Sign Language from Gallaudet University. Currently, she is the Principal of Early Childhood Education at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and an adjunct professor of American Sign Language at the University of Pennsylvania.
Involved in the deaf community, Melissa was the president of the National Council of Hispano Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and was the Executive Director of Deaf Women United. Melissa has been involved with the NAD throughout her life in various capacities: as a youth, she participated in the Junior NAD and the Youth Leadership Camp, and as an adult she directed the Miss Deaf America Finals in 2002 and 2008. She has been an NAD member since 1988, focusing on issues affecting youth and diversity. In her free time, she enjoys being with her husband, Sam, and son, Etzio.
Jan Blustein and Frank R. Lin, Opinion Contributors - THE HILL, published on May 17, 2017:
We are a nation divided: Democrats versus Republicans, Red States versus Blue States. On countless major issues, consensus seems impossible. But there is one thing that members of the Congress apparently can agree on: Hearing aids are too darned expensive.
At $2,500 apiece, hearing aids are beyond the reach of many Americans --- especially seniors who are most likely to need them (among people 70 and older, two-thirds have a hearing loss affecting their daily conversation). The cost of hearing aids is not covered by Medicare, or by most insurance companies. But hearing loss has serious health consequences: research has shown that it is associated with isolation, depression, and the risk of developing dementia. Only one in five people with a hearing loss uses a hearing aid. If hearing aids were widely available, the potential benefits to societal health and well-being are immense.
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire submitted this column to The Eagle-Tribune published on May 7, 2017:
Older Americans deserve a high quality of life, with opportunities to stay active and engaged.
Unfortunately, age-related hearing loss can present obstacles to social interaction and challenges in daily life. When you experience hearing loss, everything from going to the movies to talking on the phone or chatting with loved ones can become a burden. And hearing loss is linked with negative health outcomes, including dementia.
For those who experience mild to moderate hearing loss, these negative impacts could be prevented with the assistance of hearing aids. Yet, for far too many Americans, the combination of stigma and high costs keep them from using the hearing aids they need.
Research has shown that nearly 30 million Americans experience age-related hearing loss, which includes nearly half of all adults in their seventies. But, largely due to high costs, only 14 percent of those who are living with hearing loss use assistive hearing technologies.
Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, and even when hearing aids are covered by private insurance as is required in New Hampshire, seniors can still be stuck with bills totaling thousands of dollars. One survey found that the average out-of-pocket cost for hearing aids nationwide is $2,400.