Relief for Workers (and Others) Suffering from Hearing Loss

Source: Andriy Popov/123RF

President Trump has signed a new bill including over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid legislation.

The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, which aims to make hearing aids more affordable, had bipartisan support.

It requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow certain hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter to Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Some experts predict this could lower prices by as much as 90%.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D), the sponsor of the Bill, said in a statement, “This law will make a life-changing difference for millions of Americans who experience hearing loss but can’t access the hearing aid technology they need because of high costs and excessive regulations.”

According to Aidion, hearing-loss sufferers can now buy affordable hearing aids online (without taking a hearing test) for under $200 for a pair instead of shelling out a whopping $5,000 for traditional hearing aids.

Hearing aids are generally not covered by medical insurance, though insurers sometimes offer optional hearing/vision/dental plans that may include coverage for hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.

The regulations for over-the-counter hearing aids must:

(1) Provide reasonable assurances of safety and efficacy;

(2) Establish output limits and labeling requirements; and

(3) Describe requirements for the sale of hearing aids in-person, by mail, or online, without a prescription.

The stress from hearing loss can also lead to physical problems. Stress is incredibly bad for the body and has been shown to be a factor in us developing serious conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Besides these physical side effects, hearing loss also leads to isolation. You are not able to interact as closely with loved ones. Your relationships may suffer as a result.

According to NIOSH, occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Each year, about 22 millionU.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work.

Over 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to chemicals, some of which are harmful to the ear (ototoxic) and hazardous to hearing. In addition to damaging workers’ quality of life, occupational hearing loss carries a high economic price to society.

The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure is 85 decibels, A-weighted, as an 8-hour time-weighted average (85 dBA as an 8-hr TWA) using a 3-dB exchange rate. Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous.

Use the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls to reduce workplace noise to below the NIOSH REL whenever possible. Use hearing protection when hazardous noise levels cannot be adequately reduced.

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