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Bipartisan legislation to make hearing aids available over the counter reintroduced to Congress

Graphic of OTC hearing aids.

Graphic depicting Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

Bipartisan legislation making hearing aids available
over the counter reintroduced to Congress this year

Legislation was reintroduced in the Senate on March 21st this year to make hearing aids for those with mild to moderate hearing loss available over the counter (OTC). U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), brought the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 to Congress which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

The bipartisan legislation would make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter and remove unnecessary and burdensome requirements that currently create barriers for consumers who could benefit from hearing aids. Approximately 30 million Americans experience age-related hearing loss, yet only about 14 percent of those with hearing loss use assistive hearing technology, often because they cannot afford costly hearing aids.

This action has been spurred on by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2016 report entitled “Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability.” Recommendation Number 7 of the report states: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should establish a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) wearable hearing devices. This device classification would be separate from “hearing aids.” OTC wearable hearing devices would be defined as wearable, over-the-counter devices that can assist adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.” The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) supports the sale of OTC hearing aids based on the NAS’s clear, evidence-based case that OTC hearing wearable devices should be available for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.

The HLAA has expressed this as a call to action and is asking for help in removing the unnecessary barriers to getting hearing aids by having the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) create a new category of over-the-counter hearing aids. Anyone one interested in supporting the legislation may find out how to help on the HLAA’s “Call to Action: Support the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Bill of 2017” website.