Larry Humes, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, has just published a study suggesting that older adults who purchase hearing aids over the counter receive similar benefits to those who purchase the same hearing aids through an audiologist. Humes’s finding may improve the hearing and increase the accessibility and affordability of hearing aids for millions.
The study is the first randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial to compare the efficacy of two service-delivery models for hearing aids. The research team followed 154 participants, aged 55 to 79, with mild-to-moderate hearing loss, for six weeks. All participants received a thorough hearing evaluation before being randomly assigned to a group. Both groups received the same preprogrammed hearing aids. One group received the aids via an over-the-counter delivery model and another got them after consultation with an audiologist following best practices. The hearing aids were efficacious for both groups; participants in the over-the-counter group had “only slightly poorer outcomes” than those in the audiology best-practices group.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and was published on the heels of a new congressional push toward more accessible hearing aids for mild-to-moderate hearing loss.