Daily Updates, Future Ear Radio

Future Ear Daily Update: 4-10-19

Combating the Low Hearing Aid Penetration Rate

Along with FuturEar, another area of content that I produce regularly is educational videos targeted toward my industry (audiology) and the professionals within the industry (hearing healthcare professionals). Each week. I bring a guest on to record a 5-7 minute video to discuss their product, a subject matter they’re an expert on, or some type of initiative they’re involved in. For today’s update, I wanted to do a little bit of a crossover here on FuturEar to use the video I’ve published today to highlight a broader trend around hearing loss and accessibility to hearing loss solutions.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), “among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them. Even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them.” The U.S. hearing aid penetration rate sits at around 17% and isn’t rising, in some part due to the fact that our population continues to age and live longer. There are arguments as to why the penetration rate is as low as it is, from cost to vanity to accessibility, but regardless, it’s a major problem, especially when considering the comorbidities associated with untreated hearing loss.

There are a number of efforts currently underway to combat this issue.The first is the new the over-the-counter hearing aid law that was passed, signed by the President, and currently in the hands of the FTC, which is set to issue its guidelines and put this law into effect by 2020. This is an attempt to lower the cost of the devices and increase accessibility to hearing loss solutions. Though it remains to be seen how effective this law will be in increasing the adoption rate of hearing solutions, it should bring the cost of the devices down considerably.

The second effort is centered around new products, like the BeHear Now or Nuheara IQ Buds Boost, that are taking a new approach to what an assistive listening device looks like. With new form factors, increased “smart” functionality, and a price point that is three digits instead of four, this approach is geared toward combating both the cost and the stigma typically associated with hearing loss (I don’t want to feel/look old).

Many of these new products that double as headphones, while providing some amplification features, are interesting “gateways” to expose people to the extent of their loss and the way life sounds when their hearing is returned back to previous levels with the help of technology. The typical sales cycle of a hearing aid is considered to be around seven years long, and a big reason for that is because hearing loss is a progressive disease and you slowly lose your hearing over time. If people are exposed earlier in that cycle to how much their hearing has already deteriorated, then maybe they’ll go see an audiologist sooner and see if they should begin using hearing aids. Perhaps even a low-cost over-the-counter hearing aid.

It will be interesting to watch this space evolve as OTC takes effect next year and these new type of devices continue to surface and mature in what they can do. At the end of the day, my hope is that both help to attack the core issue that’s currently plaguing far too many people, and that’s the lack of a hearing loss solution that they can either afford, want to wear, and have reasonable access to.

-Thanks for Reading-


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