HughPickens.com writes: There's good news for aging Americans who may have damaged their hearing by attending one too many rock concerts when they were young. Andrew Pollack writes at the NYT that the consumer electronics industry is encroaching on the hearing aid business, offering products that are far less expensive and available without the involvement of audiologists or other professionals. The new devices are forcing a re-examination of the entire system for providing hearing aids, which critics say is too costly and cumbersome, hindering access to devices vital for the growing legions of older Americans. "The audiology profession is obviously scared, for good reason, right now," says Abram Bailey.
Hearing aids cost an average of nearly $2,400 each, or close to $5,000 a pair, according to a White House advisory group, and Medicare does not pay for them, nor do most insurers. By contrast, the consumer devices are not regulated and sell for a few hundred dollars apiece, at most. Hearing aid manufacturers say that diagnosing and treating hearing loss is too complex for consumers to do using consumer devices, without the aid of a professional. But sound amplifiers have been around for years and they are growing in sophistication, taking advantage of signal processing chips developed for phones, Bluetooth headsets and computers. The devices include the Smart Listening System from Soundhawk, which sells at $400 for a single ear; the Bean from Etymotic Research, at $300; the CS50+ from Sound World Solutions at $350; and the Crystal Ear from NeutronicEar, at $545. "To me it was a reasonable investment to experiment with," says Ira Dolich, 81, who bought the Soundhawk device, which he can adjust by himself using his smartphone. "I've been pretty pleased with it," he said.
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