People with mild to moderate hearing loss will soon—most likely in 2022—be able to get over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids in Anchorage and throughout the U.S. without a medical exam or a fitting by an audiologist. The change is the result of new FDA guidelines that are designed to boost hearing aid use by people with hearing loss.
We certainly agree with the goal of encouraging more people with hearing loss to wear hearing aids. According to the FDA, approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) age 18 and over report some trouble hearing. Unfortunately, only about 20% of those who could benefit from a hearing aid have one. Access, cost, and the persistent social stigma of hearing loss all contribute to why people don’t get hearing aids.
Still, scheduling a clinical diagnostic hearing test with an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor in Anchorage is important for people who believe hearing aids can help improve their hearing. Here’s why:
- Hearing aids are not one-size-fits-all devices. Even though people can now access medical information online and soon buy hearing aids over the counter, correctly fitting hearing aids is much more complicated than buying a pair of off-the-shelf reading glasses at the local drugstore.
- Hearing loss is most effectively treated with individualized care provided by a licensed, trained healthcare professional. As mentioned, the OTC wearable hearing devices are only for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Online or at-home hearing tests aren’t as reliable as diagnostic exams performed by an audiologist or ENT physician, who conduct hearing tests using calibrated equipment in sound-proof booths.
- Moderate hearing loss should be treated by a professional. People often associate a “moderate” condition as not very serious, but moderate hearing loss is a 50% hearing loss. What’s more, hearing loss typically occurs gradually, and a person with moderate hearing loss hasn’t had normal hearing for quite a while.
- Hearing loss isn’t a static condition. Just as eyesight gradually worsens for people who wear glasses, hearing loss can progress from mild or moderate to severe. Regular audiology tests are needed to monitor the degree of hearing loss.
- Choosing the correct hearing aid isn’t easy. Choosing over-the-counter hearing aids leaves it up to consumers to determine their amount of hearing loss and to make any adjustments. For the first-time user, the challenge with self-diagnosis could be that you won’t necessarily know what you’re missing. Studies have shown that people often choose the wrong hearing aids based on the results of their audiograms.
Hearing loss is a serious condition that is associated with a greater risk of dementia and depression, and it contributes to social isolation. Our hearing aid specialists and audiologists are trained to walk you through your options and fit you with devices that offer everything you need—and avoid unnecessary bells and whistles that increase the price.
People in Wasilla, Palmer, and other towns around Anchorage have long trusted our audiology and ENT specialists to diagnose and treat hearing loss. If you want to learn more about clinical diagnostic hearing tests and hearing aids, request a consultation using the online form or call us at (907) 279-8800 to schedule an appointment.