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(Fwd) Comment on HA article

I wrote this comment to the editor of the Wall Street Journal and
thought I would share it [Excerpt below] I appreciate the
affordability problem, and I am all for development of a hearing aid
of good quality for less money. I think the problem is representative
of a larger health-care affordability problem in which low-income
families can't afford good health care. I'm of the opinion that the
hearing aid is device to treat a medical problem (hearing loss) and
should be treated as such with appropriate medical care.

After sending this letter, I read the thorough response by Gil
Magilen, which provides many cogent arguments. Hear, Hear!

This a comment on an article by Ann Zimmerman entitled
Debate over hearing aid prices heats up

I'd ... question the quality of device that can be obtained for $100.
It is not merely a question of sound quality but mostly how much
benefit the device provides in the environment in which the
hearing-impaired person uses it. If it could be shown that this
device provides equivalent objective and subjective benefit as the
more expensive models in a variety of natural and cocktail-party like
conditions across a large number of people with a variety of hearing
losses without individual fitting of the shell or individual fitting
of the amplification, then it might be reasonable. I think a
researcher would be hard pressed to show this with a variety of
hearing losses (a sampling that would encompass those that might buy
an OTC hearing aid). In fact, with any kind of reasonable sample of
hearing-impaired people, I'm almost certain that one would not be
able to show an OTC device would perform as well because individual
fitting of ampflication would be required to maximize the audible
sound available to the user. Without this individual fitting, users
might get benefit, but something less than is possible with
individualized fittings.

Finally, if a potential buyer has a hearing loss that's more severe
than the model would be suitable for, how would the person know
without proper medical evaluation? Such a device might be adequate
for some, but without proper evaluation, the public will not know if
they are getting appropriate treatment.

Ward R. Drennan, Ph. D.
Kresge Hearing Research Institute
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Phone: (734)763-5159
Fax: (734)764-0014
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