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On Tech is back from spring break and magnolia trees are in bloom outside of On Tech headquarters (aka my New York apartment).
Today, let’s talk about technology that is relatively simple, and the change in government policy could open up more innovation for hard-of-hearing Americans.
I have spoken to audiologists, consumer advocates and technology companies about what could be a revolution for our ears – hearing aids at the cost of one. the small part and the complexity of the conventional equipment.
Here’s the current situation: Hearing loss is a common and serious health problem, and many people are reluctant or unable to buy conventional hearing aids. Nearly 38 million adult Americans report hearing loss to some extent, but only a handful of people who could benefit from hearing aids have ever used them.
Hearing aids typically cost thousands of dollars, require multiple visits to a specialist and are usually not covered by health insurance. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to cognitive impairment, dementia, and other harm. Overcoming barriers to hearing treatment can dramatically improve American health.
The federal government is ready to help. Congress in 2017 passed a law that allows anyone to purchase hearing aids approved by the Food and Drug Administration without a prescription from an audiologist. FDA has missed the deadline to release draft guidelines for this new OTC hearing aid.
Experts told me that as the FDA moves on, there is potential to lead to new products and ideas for changing hearing aids as we know it.
Imagine Apple, Bose, or other consumer electronics companies making hearing aids more stylish and relatively affordable – with people believing the device has been FDA tested, Bose said. to me they are working on over-the-counter hearing aid technology.
Barbara Kelley, executive director of the American Association for the Deaf, an advocacy group, told me she couldn’t wait for hearing aid to be more affordable and accessible. “I’m really excited when the market opens to see what we have and how people react,” she said.
Hearing aids can be purchased – they cannot be legally called hearing aids – without a prescription. These devices, called personal audio amplifiers or PSAPs, vary widely in quality, from excellent to junk. But when you shop for them, people are often unable to tell the difference.
(The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about hearing aid technologies, including headphones that can amplify quiet sounds. And Consumer Reports has a helpful guide on hearing aids and PSAPs.)
Nicholas Reed, chief audiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Hearing and Public Health, told me that the FDA process should provide a pathway for the best PSAPs to be approved as over-the-counter hearing aids. official. He also hopes new companies will hit the market.
You may suspect that a device you buy next to toilet paper at CVS could be a serious medical device. However, Dr. Reed’s study has found that some hearing aids that cost $ 350 or less are nearly as good as prescription hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Dr. Reed has described the best low-cost devices as Huyndai in terms of hearing aids. (This is a compliment.) They’re not flashy, but they will safely and effectively get many people where they need to be. He also imagined that FDA regulations would enable more people to purchase hearing aids – both over the counter and by prescription.
Experts told me that over-the-counter hearing aids will not be of help to everyone. And the industry of traditional hearing aids has said that people are best served with customized equipment with expert help.
There is also more brewing technology at the end of the luxury spectrum. A Silicon Valley startup called Whisper has a new monthly payment option for its hearing devices and says its software “learns” over time based on a person’s hearing loss. multiply.
Healthcare in the United States often feels stuck, and technology is often not the solution. But with hearing aids, technology and A change in government policy can bring about beneficial innovation in health.
Tips of the week
Give away your phone? Be sure to delete everything.
Don’t let a stranger see all your old texts and photos! Brian X. ChenThe New York Times consumer technology columnist gives advice on what to do before shipping old phones.
At some point, you’ll break up with your smartphone. You can donate it to a family member because you bought a new one or you can exchange it at a retail store for upgrade credit.
Either way, you should make sure to wipe all the data from your device before handing over it.
First things first: Make sure you have a backup of your data. Apple has instructions on its website on how to back up iPhone, and Google has instructions for Android.
After you complete that step, plug in the device and erase all the data from the device. For iPhone, follow Apple’s instructions to erase your data. For Android, the steps will vary depending on the device manufacturer and OS version. Search inside the settings app for the option to reset.
And then, you’re good to go.