Blackburn’s bipartisan bill to make hearing aids more affordable advanced by committee

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Wednesday to make hearing aids more affordable and accessible.

The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would permit the over-the-counter (OTC) sale of certain types of hearing aids for people with mild or moderate hearing loss. Currently, hearing aids aren’t covered by Medicaid or most private insurance plans, and out-of-pocket costs average $2,400.

Although nearly 30 million Americans suffer from age-related hearing loss, just 14 percent of them use hearing aids, due in part to their high costs.

“This legislation is the first step to ensuring that millions of Americans can finally have access to affordable hearing aids,” Blackburn, a member of the committee, said. “Just as someone can correct minor sight loss by purchasing reading glasses from their local pharmacy, so too should they be able to correct minor hearing loss with an affordable and accessible hearing aid. This is a bipartisan, common sense solution the people want and need.”

Lawmakers said OTC hearing aids would drive down prices and open the market to innovative hearing technologies.

Under the bill, the Food and Drug Administration would be required to draft regulations that ensure OTC hearing aids meet the same standards as other medical devices in terms of safety, labeling and manufacturing protections.

Blackburn introduced the bill with U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA).