Statement by Gail Richard, President, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association On the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 (H.R. 1652)

(Rockville, MD - May 2, 2017)  

"Today, Congress is scheduled to hold a hearing that will cover the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 (H.R. 1652), a bill making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide public access to over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids.

As drafted, the measure is meant for persons with 'perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.' However, the only aids that should be made available over-the-counter should be those that are useful to persons with mild hearing loss.

To do otherwise would put the public at risk. Greater degrees of hearing loss are serious medical conditions with broader health implications. As such, they demand individualized treatment and counseling by an audiologist. Yet, under H.R. 1652, people who experience a hearing loss other than mild could take the misguided step of trying to seek relief via OTC solutions. Some could unwittingly damage their hearing further by over-amplifying; others could do the opposite—under-amplify and grow frustrated by the failure to experience relief, resulting in the conclusion that their situation is hopeless and give up seeking additional professional help.

If H.R. 1652 becomes law as it is drafted, the public's hearing health will have been significantly compromised. No data exists that supports making OTC hearing aids widely accessible. A much safer, more responsible path for lawmakers would be to restrict the gain and output of OTC hearing aids, thus making them useful only for persons with mild hearing loss. It would also be in the public's best interest if Congress required the Food and Drug Administration to track the safety and user satisfaction issues that arise. That way they could better assess the implications of a do-it-yourself model for hearing health care."

For a comprehensive analysis of H.R.1652, see [PDF].


About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 191,500 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders.


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