OTC Hearing Aids On the Horizon?
The Better Hearing Institute issued a news release this week warning consumers of the inherent risks associated with purchasing over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all hearing aids instead of consulting a hearing healthcare professional.
BHI supports this claim by stating that hearing loss is sometimes a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition, and that all 50 states require that consumers use a credentialed hearing care professional to purchase hearing aids.
BHI also noted that hearing devices that are purchased over the counter or over the Internet, without the consultation of a hearing healthcare professional, may result in the devices not being accurately customized to the specific hearing needs of the individual.
The points made by BHI in the news release align with those made recently by our readers in response to the news that UnitedHealth will add hearing aids to its 2012 Medicare coverage.
While our commenters generally lauded the insurance giant for offering a hearing aid insurance benefit, they questioned its intent to use an online hearing test to determine programming and fitting needs.
"What happens if pathology, correctable or uncorrectable, goes undetected when just air conduction testing is completed," asked one reader. And, "What happens to the counseling that goes along with fitting the aids?"
Another reader noted that the at-home hearing test, for which a patent has only recently been filed, may not stand up under rigorous clinical testing, while one went as far as to say, "Pandora's Box has been opened. The genie is out of the bottle."
This much remains to be seen, we know, but one thing is for sure: Many questions about the viability of at-home hearing tests and over-the-counter hearing aids will be answered as UnitedHealth rolls out its program. Based on your experience working hands-on with patients, do you think this approach has potential staying power in the industry? If it does, how could you see it affecting your practice? Please share your thoughts and continue the conversation.