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Why over the counter hearing aids may not be a good thing

17 February 2017 11:52am

When you have an appointment with Colin Eaton the audiologist at the Honiton Hearing Centre you know you will be in safe hands. Hearing loss is complicated, and never straight forward. It takes years of study and dispensing, to really know what hearing instrument you will need. It really isn't as easy as going into a high street store and picking a hearing aid of the shelf and popping it in your ear.  The United States of America is currently amidst an argument between audiologists and the FDA over the approval of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. While the previous system prevented access to hearing equipment for many of the population due to expense, there are fears for the quality and consequences of cheaper equipment. With top models of hearing aids costing thousands of dollars, many have been seeking alternatives with the most popular solution being Costco. Hearing aids are also not covered by many insurance companies and the lack of National Health Service has led to many people suffering from hearing problems.

While the UK has a standard prescribed hearing aid available from the NHS, there was talk recently of scrapping this for mild to moderate hearing loss. If this is the case then it is likely that in a few years we will see ourselves in the same position as America is currently in, with cheaper over-the-counter alternatives that may not have a positive impact. The FDA have declared there will be no mandatory hearing test or expert advice consultation, there are fears that people will be buying hearing aids that are either too weak for their hearing loss and will therefore not see the benefits, or they will be too strong and damage their hearing further. Dr Thomas Tedeschi has over 30 years of experience in the hearing healthcare field and is so concerned by over the counter hearing aids that he conducted a pilot study which is noted in" The Hearing Review. He is apprehensive that individuals have difficulty self-assessing their hearing loss. We found individuals who had normal hearing thinking they had a loss, individuals not able to tell if their loss was monaural or binaural and individuals who thought they had mild loss who in reality had a moderate loss.

This inability to properly detect or define hearing loss as an individual may also lead to more serious cases, with people unaware they should seek medical attention if they have severe hearing loss or a red flag medical condition. There are also fears that an over 18 may be able to buy over-the-counter hearing aids for minors whose hearing is more sensitive and therefore are more at risk. Neil DiSarno from the" American Speech-language Hearing Association believes this may be one of the greatest risks: OTC hearing aids pose the most danger to the public in the case of a parent purchasing them for a child. Our concern is that it will be tempting for some parents to purchase an OTC hearing aid for a child if it is priced at a lower cost-though it will not include any medical or audiologist services. Many people looking to buy over-the-counter hearing aids will have to heavily manage their expectations. The hearing aids from professionals are complicated and advanced technology that are tuned to the individual and contain all manner of extras and features. An over-the-counter hearing aid will include little to none of these aspects, limiting their uses and a customers satisfaction.

Chasity Moore is a doctor of Audiology specialising in diagnostic audiology, rehabilitation and tinnitus treatment and worries that customers will be unhappy with their purchase: I think most OTC hearing aids will become ITDs (in the drawer hearing aids) because people have unrealistic expectations. They think hearing aids are like glasses, when [in reality] it is unrepairable nerve damage, not a simple lens correction.

Areas that Honiton Hearing Centre services:

Exeter, Exmouth, Lyme Regis Bridport,Taunton, Wellington Tiverton, Honiton, Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Sidford, Axminster, Charmouth, Horton, Ilminster,Dunkeswell, East Budleigh, Sudbury, Branscombe, Beer, Seaton,Whimple, Clyst Honiton, Topsham, West Hill, Fairmile, Culmstock, Wiveliscombe, Dulverton, Bampton, Oakfordbridge, Morebath,Rackenford, Cove, Catworthy, Norton Fitzwarren, White Ball, Huntsham, Milverton, Bishops Lydeard, Chard, Beaminster, Crewkerne, South Petherton, Tytherleigh

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Honiton Hearing Centre,

12 New St,

Honiton Devon,

EX14 1EY
01404 47070


01884 255722