FDA makes changes to improve hearing aid accessibility

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Federal Drug Administration is making moves to help the hearing impaired have easier access to hearing aids. First, the FDA is allowing consumers 18 and up to waive the medical examination they would need to get hearing aids. Next, to help ease the cost burden, the FDA is looking to create over-the-counter hearing aids, which would allow lower cost for consumers. 

The Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hearing is affected by the new regulation because it serves more than 600,000 individuals who have a hearing loss within the state. 

Ninety percent of those individuals are hard of hearing, meaning they have hearing loss but don't use sign language to communicate. 

Executive Director, Opeoluwa Sotonwa, said the commission supports the new regulation.

"Because there are various types of hearing losses, and different variations of hearing loss, their are some who would be able to benefit," Sotonwa said. "I think the most important thing for us to keep in mind is making sure that there's access to these and access to benefits to anybody who has a hearing loss," he said. 

Currently the average hearing aid costs around $2,000 a piece, which can become very expensive because it isn't covered by insurance. 

The commission hopes to continue in the process of making hearing aid more affordable by working with the Missouri Legislation to potentially cover the costs of a hearing aid through insurance. 

"It's become a very hot topic for us," Sotonwa said. "It's something that we really see that people are supportive of. They're wanting to see hearing aid be affordable." 

Because hearing loss is unique to the individual, Sotonwa said over-the-counter won't be the best option for everyone. 

"The most important thing is having an individual go to the doctor, somebody that has the training that can assist them in diagnosing the hearing loss and assist them the best way to go," Sotonwa said. 

According to the FDA, hearing loss affects about 30 million Americans.