While there is no argument that good gear requires a significant investment, the author totally ignored the research data showing that hearing aid adaptation rates here in the States are little different from that in those European countries with socialized medical systems that provide hearing aids to all who need them, free of charge.
If, the real reason people were not adopting hearing aids truly was the cost factor, then surely adaptation rates in countries where hearing aids are provided free of charge would be at a much higher rate, than here in the states where most folks have to pay for their own gear.
However, the statistics simply don’t bear that out. Hearing aid adaptation rates are little different here than they are in countries where they are provided free of charge.
So while I applaud the article bringing the adaptation issue to the for, there is a serious misrepresentation as to why most folks don’t use hearing aids, as well as a blurring of this product, it’s capabilities and how they are sold with those of actual hearing aids.
As pointed out in several articles, including a recent one of my own, denial, not money, is the biggest hinderance to folks adopting hearing aids when they need them. Most folks simply don’t equate what they are experiencing with a loss of hearing, or they underestimate how much their loss is affecting their ability to understand.
As, to this $300 dollar device being sold as a quality, inexpensive alternative to a hearing aid, it may be. However, this article did not make clear the distinction between a hearing aid, and this device, which unless being sold as a hearing aid, or to correct a hearing loss, is more properly classified as a Personal Sound Amplification Product, as designated by the FDA in a 2009 ruling.
Also missing from the article was the fact that there are serious health implications from being only amplified on one side, or that these devices were being sold without any professional involvement at all, something that would be absolutely illegal in forty-eight states, if they were hearing aids.
NPR could have made the distinction, and differences much clearer between what hearing aids and these devices are designed to do, what they are allowed to claim in their advertising and, what they had to prove to whom, in order to make their claims.
Hearing aids cost more than PSAPs for lots of reasons, not the least of which is because they truly are high quality medical devices that must comply with the highest standards of testing and performance.
Hearing aid manufacturers also have the added requirement that they prove any claims about their performance with adequate research data to back them up. While hearing aids are also subject to both Federal and State regulations, Personal Sound Amplification Products have none of these requirements, or regulations, nor do they have to prove, or document the performance of their equipment in any way.
The difference is not just in the overall quality, and cost of the gear, but also what it was actually designed for, and how it is being employed.
By blurring the distinction between hearing aids and these unregulated devices, NPR does it’s public a disservice.
Hearing aids are medical devices, and are regulated as such, in a highly restricted delivery system that evolved around both consumer protection concerns, and best medical/audiological practices.
By hearing aids being so regulated, the public has a right to expect a certain level of not only quality in the devices, but also, professional involvement in the devices selection, setup and application. PSAPs, like the Bluetooth device being shown, are totally outside of this consumer protection, and regulatory framework, and are void of all professional involvement.
So, while I too look for ways to lower the cost of hearing aids, I cannot in my practice use a PSAP, and call it a hearing aid, nor can I deliver a hearing aid outside of the strict regulatory requirements, without putting my practice and actual freedom at stake.
Hacking an off the shelf, ear level Bluetooth dongle, writing a smartphone app to control it, and selling it as a cheap alternative to quality hearing care, as reported, may be a newsworthy item, but this article blurs important differences between both the equipment being used, and the professional care behind it.
It is this personal, professional involvement along with the quality of the gear, that so often makes up the difference in costs and for most folks, a big difference in outcomes.
So for those looking for cheap alternatives to quality hearing care, my best advice is simply, Buyer Beware.
Just understand that while there may be some high quality PSAPs on the market, most are absolutely substandard in their amplification, and processing capabilities when compared, or actually measured against any of today’s better hearing aids.
Oh, and no PSAP comes with the professional care that can make all of the difference in the world in the outcome experienced. The differences aren’t just in price. So, if you’re contemplating PSAPs, instead of actual hearing aids, just remember the old truism, “You generally get what you pay for.”
Quality hearing care isn’t cheap. But, it is priceless.
However, good gear doesn’t have to break the bank either.
We offer a wide range of equipment for every patient need, from the latest, and best our industry has to offer, to quality used equipment acquired on trade, and starting at just $15, (plus mold and professional fees.)
It’s all part of what we call being Patient Centered, and Results Oriented.
If, you’d like to experience just how good the world can sound, we’ll be happy to help. No cost, or obligation. Just give us a call, or drop by any weekday morning. You’ll be glad you did.