Several weeks ago, you ran an article about treating hearing loss, referring to a “prestigious government advisory group” proposing that hearing aids be sold over-the-counter, much like reading glasses.
Inexplicably, that group included no audiologist or even an ENT physician, and one critical distinction between hearing loss and vision loss was overlooked. Hearing loss is primarily a sensorineural (not conductive) condition. Less than 10 percent of cases are purely conductive in nature — which is more analogous to a vision loss correctable with OTC glasses. Yet the advice in the article pertained mainly to conductive hearing loss. Not only is there a loss of acuity in sensorineural hearing loss, but also distortion and a reduced tolerance for loud sounds. This is not a simple matter to correct without good diagnostic testing.
The statement that hearing aids “average about $4,700 per pair” is very misleading. Some hearing aids do cost that much, but good technology can be had for much less; and if the aids are fit properly, most people will find considerable benefit for thousands less.
I do agree with the statement in the article that hearing loss is a growing public health problem and is associated with “social isolation, depression and even dementia.” The most common cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud sound and can be preventable by avoiding loud sound or wearing good hearing protection. Our auditory system is exquisitely complex and effective. Preventing hearing loss in the first place is the best and least expensive way to go.
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Judith Albrecht, State College
The writer is a certified and licensed audiologist.