NAS Releases Report on Priorities for Hearing Healthcare
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (previously known as the Institute of Medicine) was released last week regarding hearing healthcare for adults. The report, titled Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability, makes recommendations for systemic changes to hearing care as we know it, with the aim of reaching more people who need to improve their hearing.
The recommendations are based on statistics that 67%-86% of adults over 50 with hearing loss don’t use hearing aids, and the link between hearing loss and co-morbidities such as cognitive decline. Among the board members responsible for the report is Frank Lin, who spoke to Ida about the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline.
The report is geared toward an American audience, and cites the cost of hearing aids and lack of insurance coverage (compared with countries where assistive technologies are paid for by the state) as a hindrance to uptake. It suggests “…key institutional, technological, and regulatory changes that would enable consumers to find and fully use the appropriate, affordable, and high-quality services, technologies, and support they need.”
In a brief summarizing the report reads the comment: “People who need hearing health care services and technologies should be at the center of their own care, with the option to make decisions about what is the most appropriate care for them.” With person-centered care at the core of Ida’s mission, we couldn’t agree more.
Perhaps the most groundbreaking (and controversial) of these recommendations includes allowing hearables – provided they meet safety standards -- to be available over-the-counter without FDA approval. But with the field of audiology continuing to evolve, this recommendation is in line with trends we’re already seeing.
In total, the report includes 12 recommendations, many of which align closely with Ida’s Vision 2020 initiative and other projects we and our collaborators have worked on, including:
Improve population-based information on hearing loss and hearing health care: The report brief cites the need to “emphasize hearing as a public health concern with societal responsibilities and effects.” Our collaborators at the Ear Foundation have released several reports on the greater impact of hearing loss on personal health and society at large.
One branch of Vision 2020, the Hearing Care Manager of the Future, explored the idea of hearing care across a lifespan. If hearing loss is an excepted part of aging, and something that needs to be checked regularly, it may help people take action when the time comes.
Develop and promote measures to assess and improve quality of hearing health care services: Included in the brief is a reference to “work[ing] toward an integrated approach that provides options." This harkens to the multi-disciplinary workplace approach suggested in Vision 2020. The report makes further reference to this idea again in Recommendation 10, Evaluate and implement innovative models of hearing health care to improve access, quality, and affordability, specifically through effective communication and coordination between GPs and other specialists.
Improve access to hearing health care for underserved and vulnerable populations: The report specifically refers to telemedicine as a way of reaching the underserved population. One area of focus for Vision 2020 was Telehealth, which is designed to improve access to those in remote areas, who are less mobile, or otherwise unable to see a hearing care professional during office hours.
This line of thinking produced Ida Telecare, currently aimed at extending care beyond the appointment. Ida Advisory Board member DeWet Swanepoel and his team at HearZA in South Africa are reaching out to those just beginning their hearing loss journey through a mobile-only screening app. This increases accessibility in a region where most people access the internet via mobile.
Promote hearing health care in wellness and medical visits for those with concerns about their hearing: One idea to emerge from our Ideas Worth Hearing campaign was “Community Education and Family Doctors.” GPs have the platform to suggest annual hearing check-ups, and write referrals for older patients. If you want to get started now, you can download sample project plan.
Improve affordability of hearing health: This recommends that “vocational rehabilitation agencies raise public awareness about their services that enable adults to participate in the workforce,” taking hearing healthcare beyond the hearing aid and helping people with hearing loss fully participate in their personal and professional lives.
Improve publicly available information on hearing health: Raising awareness about hearing loss requires going beyond the clinic. On our Vision 2020 Community page, we give examples of how you can reach the greatest number of people about the importance of hearing healthcare and create a space for them to share their experiences. This also directly relates the final recommendation, Promote individual, employer, private sector, and community-based actions to support and manage hearing health and effective communication. Our Ideas Worth Hearing campaign has a wealth of projects for individuals, businesses, non-profits, and schools to try to help promote awareness and support for the hearing loss community. At Ida, we’re continuing to work with these themes through the Big Messages.
You can read the full report, including the rest of the recommendations, here.