The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will soon allow people to purchase hearing aids without an audiologist or hearing aid dispenser acting as a go-between. Under this new arrangement there will be no guarantee that purchasers with hearing loss will have access to the hearing care services that are often needed to optimize hearing and communication with the devices. Using data for 2013 from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we examined existing barriers to accessing those services among older Medicare beneficiaries who owned and used hearing aids. Within this population, beneficiaries who were dually eligible for Medicaid had 41 percent lower odds of using hearing care services and were twice as likely to report having a lot of trouble hearing with their aids, compared to high-income Medicare beneficiaries. Existing barriers to device owners' receiving hearing care services are likely to be exacerbated when over-the-counter sales further separate the purchase of hearing aids from payment for supportive services. Coverage of hearing care services under the Medicare program should be considered to address income-related constraints to service access.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy