Press Release

Blackburn-sponsored bill making hearing aids affordable, accessible advances

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Washington, June 7, 2017 | comments

WASHINGTON – Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) on Wednesday applauded the bipartisan passage of their Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act in the House Energy & Commerce Committee. The legislation would make certain types of hearing aids available over-the-counter to Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss.

"This legislation is the first step to ensuring that millions of Americans can finally have access to affordable hearing aids," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn. “Just as someone can correct minor sight loss by purchasing reading glasses from their local pharmacy, so too should they be able to correct minor hearing loss with an affordable and accessible hearing aid. This is a bipartisan, commonsense solution the people want and need.”

 

"Access to hearing aids shouldn't be limited by cost and a lack of competition. Recent innovation in hearing aid technology and over-the-counter sales will ensure millions of Americans are able to obtain hearing aids that improve their ability to communicate with their families, at their jobs and everywhere in between. With today’s bipartisan passage, we have moved closer to bringing relief to millions of our neighbors. I look forward to continued bipartisan efforts to move this bill through the full House and Senate," said Rep. Joe Kennedy III.

In addition to greater accessibility, the proposed legislation would require the FDA to write regulations ensuring that this new category of OTC hearing aids meets the same high standards for safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing protections as medical devices, providing consumers the option of an FDA-regulated device at lower cost.

The provisions of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act implement major recommendations from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. The legislation has received endorsements from AARP, the Gerontological Society of America, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, and the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Nearly 30 million Americans experience age-related hearing loss, including over half of adults between the ages of 70 to 79. Yet only a small share of Americans with hearing loss - around 14 percent - use hearing aids, primarily due to their high cost. Hearing aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, and out-of-pocket costs for a single hearing aid average $2,400 - far out of reach for many consumers.

The bill text is available here. A fact sheet about the bill is available here.

 

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