Contributions to this post were made by Elizabeth Mynatt, CCC Vice Chair and Executive Director of the Institute for People and Technology at Georgia Tech. Dr. Mynatt was a member of the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) working group on aging and technology and led the Computing Community Consortium’s (CCC) Aging in Place workshop.
Recently, the New York Times published an article on A Push for Less Expensive Hearing Aids. The article highlighted the findings in a recent PCAST report on aging and technology. The report stated that almost two-thirds of Americans over the age of 70 have some kind of hearing loss, however many of them do nothing about it because the cost of a hearing aid is around $2,500 or more. That is just the cost of one; most Americans probably need two hearing aids.
There have been some recent policy developments that might lead to more rational policies and affordable devices.
- PCAST recommended federal actions to “simultaneously decrease the cost of hearing aids, spur technology innovation and increase consumer choice options.”
- In June, the Institute of Medicine will issue a report on hearing health that tackles key questions like federal regulation, insurance and price.
- The F.D.A., acting on recommendations by the president’s council, will host a public workshop next month to consider whether its hearing aid regulations “may hinder innovation, reduce competition, and lead to increased cost and reduced use.”
One key finding in the PCAST report is the growing scientific understanding that hearing loss, while common in aging adults, is not simply an unquestioned facet of aging, and that untreated hearing loss can cause significant harm in cognition, mobility and social engagement for aging adults. The financial and policy barriers to affordable hearings may be harming millions of adults as untreated hearing loss can be irreversible while causing additional harm.
The PCAST working group was able to consider together the original motivations for denying Medicare coverage for hearing aids back in 1965, the lack of affordable options for most aging adults despite technical advances in related technologies, the availability of affordable devices for veterans, and the growing evidence that untreated hearing loss likely is costing the US millions of dollars due to second order effects.
The JAMIA editorial co-authored by Christine Cassel and Ed Penhoet, co-chairs of the PCAST study, provides a compelling and concise summary of these hearing health policy issues.
The PCAST working group explored additional topics beyond hearing important to an aging population, ranging from: ensuring access, physical mobility, cognitive support and social connectivity. Many of these were also highlighted in the CCC workshop report.
For more information, see the full article.