Low-Cost Hearing Aids Shown To Be Effective

Forget everything you thought you knew about hearing aids

(MICHELLE ANDREWS, KAISER HEALTH NEWS)

Hearing aids that cost about $1,900 apiece are only slightly more effective than some over-the-counter sound-amplification devices that sell for just a few hundred dollars, according to a recent study.

Photos by Mavis

The study bolsters legislation pending in Congress that would have the Food and Drug Administration set regulations to make sound-amplification devices safer and more affordable.

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Consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss would be able to purchase the devices without a prescription and without a medical exam, knowing they meet federal safety standards.

For the study, researchers compared how well 42 older people with mild to moderate hearing loss repeated sentences spoken in the presence of background noise.

The researchers first tested the participants’ ability to understand the speaker without any devices. Then they tested the individuals successively with a hearing aid and with five “personal sound amplification products,” or PSAPs, that are sold over the counter.

The hearing aid used in the study was a brand commonly dispensed in audiology clinics. The PSAPs either had the best electroacoustic properties or were commonly available in retail pharmacies. PSAPs perform like hearing aids but can’t be marketed as such because they don’t meet standards set by the FDA.

The results, published in July in JAMA, found very little difference in effectiveness between the hearing aid, which costs about $1,900 per ear, and some of the PSAPs, which mostly cost between $300 and $350 each.

On average, study participants were able to accurately repeat about three-quarters of the words spoken to them without using any device. Using the hearing aid boosted their understanding to an average 88.4 percent. Four of the five PSAPs were nearly as effective, with average scores ranging from 81.4 percent to 87.4 percent. The fifth PSAP performed poorly: People could hear better with their naked ears.  READ FULL STORY AT PHILLY.COM

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