Buchanan Co-Sponsors Bill to Make Hearing Aids Affordable
“Seniors Struggle to Hear Everyday Conversations”
WASHINGTON – Noting that nearly 50 million Americans have hearing loss – a problem especially acute among seniors – Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today he has co-sponsored legislation to make hearing aids more affordable.
The bill is supported by the AARP.
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act co-sponsored by Buchanan would drive down costs by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The bill could bring the cost of a pair of hearing aids down from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars, according to the New York Times.
“Hearing aids reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan said. “It can lead to isolation and frustration. Expanding access to hearing aids will improve their quality of life.”
The bill will reduce costs by simplifying the hearing aid purchasing process. Currently, a formal medical evaluation is required before seniors can purchase hearing aids. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists — professionals trained in treating hearing problems — or licensed hearing aid sellers after the evaluation.
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would remove these requirements so the hearing aids could be purchased in a simple, over-the-counter fashion.
Sadly, an estimated 86 percent of people who would benefit from hearing aids do not get them, primarily because of high cost, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. Hearing aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans. Out-of-pocket costs for a pair of hearing aids average $5,400 according to Consumer Reports.
Buchanan represents the 4th-highest number of seniors 65 and older of any district in the country. He noted that more than 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss – more than diabetes, cancer or vision trouble, according to the Hearing Loss Association. And half of all seniors age 75 and older have hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“Hearing loss is a major contributor to declining quality of life,” Buchanan said. “I want to make it as easy as possible for seniors to get the help that they need.”
The bill is supported by AARP, the Hearing Loss Association of America, and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. The bill was introduced following two scientific reports that recommended this approach: an October 2015 report by President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, followed by a National Academies of Science report in June 2016.
The National Academies of Science noted that “over-the-counter, wearable hearing devices could provide an additional easy-to-access and potentially less expensive option to meet the hearing needs of adults with mild or moderate hearing loss."
Buchanan, a senior member of the House committee that oversees Social Security and Medicare, is very active on senior protection and health issues.
He teamed up with Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., to introduce the Seniors Fraud Prevention Act, which would help crack down on scams targeting seniors. The bill directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a senior fraud group that would alert consumers about scams, maintain online resources and create an effective complaint system to ensure that reports of fraud are quickly forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The bill has been endorsed by the AARP.