Today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) met with Iowa Audiology President and CEO Dr. Jason Aird to discuss the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) finalization of a key rule allowing hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter – a bipartisan effort Grassley has led for over five years. They also discussed Grassley’s support for the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act, which would modernize Medicare rules for audiologists – making it easier for seniors to access an audiologist. Grassley then held a Q&A with health care providers in the Mount Pleasant community.
“After shepherding the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Act through Congress in 2017 along with Senator Warren, we still had our work cut out for us. We continued pressing the FDA to implement the law as Congress intended, and we confronted entrenched special interests who didn’t want to see this commonsense law succeed. Thankfully, two months ago, the FDA finalized regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids. None of this would’ve been possible without the input and hard work of Iowa audiologists, including Dr. Aird. It’s been an honor to see this effort through, and I’m glad more Iowans will now have access to affordable over-the-counter hearing aids,” Grassley said.
“I appreciate Senator Grassley’s work on over-the-counter hearing aids and modernizing Medicare so that beneficiaries have better access to the audiology services that they need. Audiologists play an essential role in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. I thank Senator Grassley for meeting with health care providers like myself about our role in serving Iowans. Our work, along with the implementation of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, will improve access to hearing care services and lower costs for many consumers,” said Dr. Jason Aird, president and CEO of Iowa Audiology and an active member of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), nearly 38 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss. Nearly half of adults 75 or older and one-third of adults between 65 and 74 experience difficulty hearing. However, only a small percentage – around 14 percent – of those who could benefit from hearing aids use them, oftentimes due to high costs. Grassley has heard from Iowans who have reported paying $5,000 or even $10,000 for hearing aids.
In 2017, Congress passed the FDA Reauthorization Act, which included Grassley’s Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. Their bill required the FDA to issue regulations establishing over-the-counter hearing aids, specifically for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, no later than three years from the date of enactment. The FDA slow-rolled the regulatory-crafting process, missing its first statutory deadline by a year. After the public comment period closed on January 18 of this year, and the FDA failed to provide a clear timeline for finalizing regulations, Grassley and Warren ramped up pressure by introducing the Delivering Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Now Act. The bill required the FDA to speed up its timeline for issuing its final regulations.
At the end of June, Grassley and Warren released a comprehensive report showing how dominant hearing aid manufacturers were attempting to diminish the effectiveness of over-the-counter hearing aids. They also called on the FDA commissioner to adopt a final rule that promotes competition, reduces prices and meets high standards of safety and effectiveness.
Read more about Grassley’s OTC hearing aids effort in an op-ed he published HERE.