May 11, 2017

Warren, Grassley, Hassan, Isakson Applaud Inclusion of Bipartisan Hearing Aid Legislation in HELP Committee Markup

Bipartisan Legislation Approved by HELP Today As Part of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017

Washington, D.C.- U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) today applauded the inclusion of their bipartisan Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee markup of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017.

Their legislation, the entirety of which was included in the package that moved through HELP today, would make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter to Americans with mild to moderate hearing impairment. In addition, the legislation would require the FDA to write regulations ensuring that this new category of OTC hearing aids meets the same high standards for safety, consumer labeling and manufacturing protections as all medical devices, providing consumers the option of an FDA-regulated device at lower cost. A companion bill led by Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) was also introduced in the House.

The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 has received endorsements from leading organizations representing seniors, consumers and hearing health professionals, including the AARP, the Gerontological Society of America, the Hearing Loss Association of America, Consumers Union, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the American Federation of Teachers, the Consumer Technology Association, and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology.

"Millions of Americans experience hearing loss but can't access the hearing aid technology they need because of high costs and excessive regulations," Senator Warren said. "By making some hearing aids available over the counter, we can increase competition, spur innovation, and bring down prices. I'm very glad the Committee has advanced this bipartisan legislation." 

"A lot of people are looking forward to passage of this provision," Senator Grassley said.  "Consumers are interested in new hearing aid products to improve their quality of life at an affordable price.  The committee was right to advance this bill, and I look forward to seeing it continue to move forward."

"Making some hearing aids available over-the-counter is a bipartisan solution that can help encourage innovation in the market and bring real cost savings to older Americans and others who experience hearing loss," Senator Hassan said. "The committee's approval of this common-sense measure is a significant step forward, and I will continue working with members of both parties to make affordable, over-the-counter hearing aids a reality."

"Millions of Americans will benefit from this provision," Senator Isakson said. "Hearing aids are a basic necessity for individuals with hearing loss, and this measure would help them by driving down costs, increasing competition and simply making life easier for them."

Nearly 30 million Americans experience age-related hearing loss, including over half of adults between the ages of 70 to 79. Yet only a small share of Americans with hearing loss - around 14 percent - use hearing aids, primarily due to their high cost. Hearing aids are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, and out-of-pocket costs for a single hearing aid average $2,400 - far out of reach for many consumers.