OTC devices nearly as good as prescription hearing aids

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

A professional in the field of hearing — an audiologist affiliated with Johns Hopkins, no less — has come out and said something the hearing-aid industry will no doubt be seething over.

You don’t need to fork over thousands for a device to hear better.

Several months ago, I told you about the fight to get the Food and Drug Administration to allow the sale of OTC hearing aids. Currently, there’s a bipartisan bill gathering dust in a Senate committee that would give those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss the option of purchasing an inexpensive, non-prescription hearing device without having an exam.

It’s the same idea as picking out a pair of readers instead of getting a pair of prescription glasses.

But, as it turns out, that alternative is already out there… if you know what to look for. Because absurdly, they can’t be sold as “hearing aids”!

Now, an expert has put these non-hearing aids to the test.

And what he found out may astound you.

What’s in a name?

Professional audiologist Nicholas Reed sure isn’t going to be welcome at any shindigs held by the Hearing Industries Association anytime soon!

The HIA is the lobbying group for manufacturers of hearing aids, and its members believe that if we want to hear better, we’ve got to go the conventional route — have an exam by a professional, and be fitted with one of these pricy devices that can run into the thousands and aren’t covered by Medicare.

But Reed is breaking with tradition. He not only conducted a study comparing “personal sound amplification products” to hearing aids, but now he’s saying we should consider using one, if necessary.

And, maybe worst of all, he’s naming brands.

Reed’s study, which was just published in JAMA, compared several OTC amplification products with a professionally-fitted hearing aid in 42 seniors who had mild-to-moderate hearing loss. To be clear, having diminished hearing doesn’t mean you literally don’t hear a thing, but that you’re losing out on understanding a lot of what you hear.

So, in the study, volunteers tried to make out sentences in a sound booth while researchers played a distracting “noise” (like the din in a crowded restaurant) in the background.

And the results were surprising.

Using one of four amplification devices purchased at drug stores and over the Internet, the participants were able to understand what was being said up to 87 percent of the time. That was just one percent less than the results with a pricey, FDA-approved hearing aid!

Only one of the non-traditional devices didn’t work very well and created distortion. And that was the most inexpensive one, the $30 MSA 30X Sound Amplifier.

Although I wouldn’t call the other four that gave good results exactly cheap, since they can run from a couple hundred dollars to around $350, they’re still a lot less costly than conventional hearing aids that tend to average around $2,500 per ear!

Reed says that it would still be helpful to be seen and fitted by an audiologist who can adjust one of these OTC devices (some will, but others won’t touch them), so he hasn’t jumped ship entirely.

Nevertheless, he’s dropped a bomb right in the lap of his very own profession!

Because it’s not going to do much to help business when seniors find out that they can improve their hearing and still have enough money left over to buy that plasma TV.

If you sometimes think that character in your favorite TV series is mumbling his lines, it might just be that your ears aren’t quite as sharp as they once were — and can use a little help.

And while you might not consider yourself a candidate for any such device to improve your hearing, it’s estimated that around half of those between the ages of 70 and 79 are.

Obviously, hearing things clearly is a good idea — and not just so you can stop annoying your better half by asking what the actors on TV said.

It’s also something that can keep you from taking a bad fall.

Research done at Reed’s very own institution a couple of years ago found that diminished hearing can triple your odds of falling!

“A cheaper alternative to hearing aids?” Randy Dotinga, July 5, 2017, HealthDay, webmd.com