Congress Passes Buchanan-Backed Hearing Aid Bill
1 in 5 Americans Suffer from Hearing Loss
WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today applauded Senate passage of legislation he co-sponsored to make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans who suffer from hearing loss. The bipartisan bill now heads to President Trump's desk for his signature.
“This bill could help improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans who struggle to hear everyday conversations,” Buchanan said. “Many people who need the hearing aids cannot afford the high price tag of $4,000 or more.”
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would drive down costs by allowing people with mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase aids without a doctor’s prescription. The bill, which was endorsed by AARP, 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.
Buchanan last week urged the Senate to pass the proposal before adjourning for the month of August. “I look forward to the president signing this important measure so we can start making hearing aids more affordable and accessible."
The legislation was included in a broader bill to fund the Food and Drug Administration, which passed the Senate in an 94-1 vote.
The bill will also 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.