Audiology Connections - 2022 - 27

AN OPTIMISTIC FUTURE FOR AUDIOLOGISTS
Aging and Amplification on the Horizon
As I look to the future of audiology,
I predict that demographic and
legislative changes will directly
reshape our exciting and rewarding
profession. In the United States, adults
aged 65 and older are projected
to account for almost 25% of the
population by 2050-2060 (Vespa,
Armstrong, & Medina, 2020). The need
for audiology services will continue to
increase given the correlation between
aging and hearing loss.
Studies suggest that untreated
hearing loss may contribute to
cognitive decline (Lin et al., 2013).
Every day, audiologists see the
relationship between hearing and
cognitive function. It will be our
responsibility to educate both our
patients and the public-to provide
information about how untreated
hearing loss can potentially lead to
negative mental and physical health
outcomes. We want people to remain
engaged in their occupational and
personal relationships; therefore,
we will need to include cognitive
function and overall well-being in our
counseling repertoire. The approach
toward dealing with hearing loss
should focus on how to reach the
people who don't see it as a threat to
their overall health-or who view it as
a normal and expected function of the
aging process.
The creation of a new over-thecounter
(OTC) category of hearing
aids will increase innovation and
competition within the marketplace for
all hearing aids, including prescription
devices. This will ultimately benefit
consumers by increasing affordability
and performance of hearing aids.
In addition to these technological
advancements, audiologists and
advocacy experts continue to
advocate for increased coverage of
hearing aids. The current version of
President Biden's proposed legislation,
the Build Back Better Act, includes
changes to hearing health care access
and affordability. If the audiology
provisions remain included in the final
bill, Medicare recipients with severe
to profound hearing loss would have
insurance coverage for hearing aids.
Ultimately, I hope to see a clear and
balanced distinction made between (a)
audiologists as hearing and vestibular
health care practitioners and (b)
hearing aid dispensers as experienced
technicians. Audiologists can set
themselves apart as essential hearing
care experts through customization
of products, personalized treatment
plans, hearing aid verification
measures, and offering a variety of
devices-to name a few examples.
I know of audiology practices
that are already embracing OTC
hearing devices for adults with mild to
moderate hearing loss as a stepping
stone into prescription hearing aids.
Hearable devices (e.g., AppleĀ®
AirPods, BoseĀ® amplifiers) with
some degree of amplification,
improved integrated medical
monitoring, and improved
fitness tracking are making
strides in the hearing device
market. It is my hope that
access to affordable and
beneficial amplification
when needed will prevail.
Audiologists must remain
informed about new legislation
that improves access to hearing
health care and must embrace
the ever-changing aspects of
hearing health care in
the years to come.
References
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
(2021, November 9). House bill adds new Medicare
hearing benefits. https://www.asha.org/news/2021/
house-bill-adds-new-medicare-hearing-benefits/
Lin, F. R., Yaffe, K., Xia, J., Xue, Q.-L., Harris, T. B.,
Purchase-Helzner, E., Satterfield, S., Ayonayon, H. N.,
Ferrucci, L., Simonsick, E. M., & Health ABC Study
Group (2013). Hearing loss and cognitive decline in
older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 173(4), 293-299.
https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868
Vespa, J., Armstrong, D. M., & Medina, L. (2020,
February). Demographic turning points for the United
States: Population projections for 2020 to 2060.
https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/
demo/p25-1144.html
Larry Taylor, AuD, CCC-A,
FAA, is an audiologist
with Ear, Nose, and Throat
Associates in Baltimore,
Maryland.
https://www.asha.org/news/2021/house-bill-adds-new-medicare-hearing-benefits/ https://www.asha.org/news/2021/house-bill-adds-new-medicare-hearing-benefits/ https://www.doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868 https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.html https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.html

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