Although some hearing aids don’t require molding, many do need acoustic molds that are custom-made by an audiologist under direct visualization with hearing mold material, Dr. Hillman said. He’s heard of direct-to-consumer mold kits but doubts that patients can properly fit their hearing aids on their own.
Explore This IssueMarch 2012
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has stressed to hi HealthInnovations the key role of audiologists in any process that involves the fitting and dispensing of hearing aids, ASHA spokesman Doug Plesh said in an e-mail to ENT Today. The association also discussed with company officials the need for a controlled listening environment when conducting hearing testing.
Primary Care Role
In its press release, hi HealthInnovations stated that it will seek to engage more primary care physicians in the care of hearing loss, because early detection and treatment often lead to better outcomes. Test kits will be made available to primary care doctors, “providing them an additional tool to screen their patients for hearing loss,” the statement said.
Involving more primary care physicians in screening and diagnosing hearing loss is a fine goal, as long as they’re using proper equipment and the next step is referring patients with hearing loss to an otolaryngologist for an examination and making sure they get an accurate audiogram, Dr. Hillman said. “If they’re skipping steps and they’re using a screening test as an accurate audiogram, that’s what can lead to misdiagnosis and inaccurate fitting of hearing instruments,” he added.
Most primary care doctors are able to conduct a good exam of the ear and rule out problems such as an acute infection, a hole in the eardrum or a wax obstruction, Dr. Pyle said. But they might not be aware of all of the conditions for which they should refer patients to an otolaryngologist.
—Mark Pyle, MD
The AAO-HNS noted that Congress and many state legislatures are exploring “more acceptable ways to reduce the cost of hearing aids for consumers.” These ideas include tax deductions, tax credits and greater health plan coverage. United could increase its health plan coverage for hearing devices and reduce plan participants’ out-of-pocket costs, the Academy added.
United did not return calls for comment.
Although United is trying to find a lower-cost way to help people buy hearing aids, this should not be done at the expense of safety, Dr. Pyle said.