This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.
My colleagues and I write a lot about government failures and the horrors of technology. But we have good news this week.
On Tuesday, after a long wait, the Food and Drug Administration started the process to create a new category of State-approved hearing aids that Americans can buy without a prescription. The congress approved over-the-counter hearing aids in 2017.
These over-the-counter hearing aids have the potential to prove that the best efforts of government and tech companies can improve the lives of Americans.
At Walgreens, you can buy reading glasses without a prescription. Maybe this time next year you can do the same with an officially labeled hearing aid for a few hundred dollars.
Health professionals, patient advocates, and technical executives I’ve spoken to are all excited about the potential of over-the-counter hearing aids. They envision that government blessings will spark new inventions from companies like Bose, Best Buy, and Apple. And they believe this could be the beginning of a golden age for hearing aids.
“I cry when I read this” Nicholas Reed, the director of audiology at the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health, said he wrote to his contacts Tuesday after hearing the news.
When I wrote On this subject in April I was surprised at the harmful and widespread effects of hearing loss. About 38 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss, and only a minority of people who could benefit from hearing aids use them.
Prescription hearing aids work well for many Americans when they have access to medical care and can afford to pay about $ 5,000 on average. (Hearing aids are usually not covered by traditional Medicare. Insurance coverage by private health insurers and Medicaid is patchy.) Some people are also embarrassed about losing their hearing or being put off by tests and adjustments for hearing aids.
Untreated hearing loss can be serious. Difficulty understanding what we are hearing puts a strain on the brain and is associated with cognitive decline. dementia and social isolation.
Investigations by Dr. Reed and other scientists have found that some over-the-counter hearing aids on the market for $ 350 or less – they cannot legally be called a hearing aid at the moment – were almost as good as prescription hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. But hearing aids in this category can be excellent or junk, and it was difficult to tell the difference.
The best hearing aids could be approved as official over-the-counter hearing aids under the new FDA regulations. Experts say that more and more companies are waiting in the starting blocks to offer new hearing products.
Bose announced in May a. at Hearing aid for $ 850, and the company announced that they would like to sell the product as an over-the-counter hearing aid when the FDA sets its regulations. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple is exploring ways to turn its AirPods, which are wireless headphones, into a hearing-enhancing device.
More gadgets don’t necessarily mean that they will help more people. But the new market opportunity that the government has created could open the door to ideas that we cannot yet imagine.
Dr. Reed tells me that he envisions that slimmer, more user-friendly hearing aids can help remove the stigma of hearing loss and that new device manufacturers will educate more consumers about the problem.
In addition to devices, he and other experts also envision other ways of using hearing aids. Perhaps there will be the equivalent of Best Buy’s Geek Squad to help people fit hearing aids that they buy without a prescription. If a lot more people seek hearing aid, it could also mean more opportunities for health professionals who may offer hearing tests and treatments regardless of the device.
An over-the-counter hearing aid cannot help people with more severe hearing loss. And even for a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aids, many people still won’t be able to afford them. Some drafts of the Domestic policy is being beaten around Congress Propose extending Medicare coverage to include hearing aids.
Health care in the United States costs more than many rich countries and leads to poorer health outcomes. But at least in this one corner of healthcare, people could soon get more innovation and lower costs. Not bad.
Before we go …
Facebook will change its name. OK. The edge Reports that Facebook plans to announce a new name for the company next week to express its interest in the “Metaverse“A term for a broad vision that virtual human interactions will be as complex as reality.
Switching from the Hollywood paper to conspiracy theories: BuzzFeed News watched Crazy Days and Nights evolve from a celebrity gossip blog to a hub for QAnon conspiracy theories. “Gossip fans and QAnoners share a core belief: that celebrities do unspeakable things behind closed doors,” BuzzFeed writes.
Talk to the world on your phone: My colleague JD Biersdorfer has tips on how to proceed Use your smartphone to converse in one language that you don’t know or are quickly translating a message or a street sign.
I love Gritty, the weird mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. Here is Dark game with a VERY EXCITED dog friend.
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