Senator Warren and Senator Grassley have introduced the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act, a historic first step toward removing barriers to hearing health care. As a company that is deeply passionate about hearing, we are pleased to announce our support of this bill that will empower people in the hearing loss community to live a better life. Our Director of Advocacy and Accessibility, KR Liu, wrote a letter to Senator Warren in support of this momentous bill. Read her full text below.
From Kristen "KR" Liu:
Dear Senator Warren,
Ever since I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at the age of three, I’ve had to adapt to a very noisy world by learning how to communicate differently with others. Listening, reading lips, keeping up with conversations — these are all skills I’ve worked hard at perfecting so that I wouldn’t be treated differently or discriminated against for my hearing loss. On behalf of the hearing health community, I’m not only writing to share my story, but to give my overwhelming support for the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016.
As the World Health Organization reported, 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of developing hearing loss. Here in the U.S., 30 million people experience age-related hearing loss, and yet, less than fifteen percent of them actually use hearing aids — and this doesn’t even take into account those in the younger demographics who also have hearing loss. Given the social stigma and high cost of hearing aids, which cost upwards of $5,000 each and aren’t covered by insurance, it shouldn’t come as a shock that millions of Americans can’t get the proper help that they need. If you look at the numbers, hearing loss does not discriminate. With a younger generation at risk, it’s more important than ever that we push for change to remove the institutional barriers to hearing health care.
I work for Doppler Labs, an audio technology company where I’m the Director of Advocacy and Accessibility. We’re deeply passionate about how people interact with technology in their ears, and as a part of that, the implications for the hearing health market. We’re committed to helping open up more affordable and socially acceptable hearing health solutions. We also believe that technological innovation in this space can lead to more consumer choices, and in turn, de-stigmatize in-ear technology. Your proposed legislation for an over-the-counter hearing aid category could open the floodgates and encourage innovation in this space from new entrants, particularly the consumer electronics industry. With their resources, talent, and knowhow, companies like ours could help innovate hearing technologies and bring new products to market much more quickly.
For the last twenty years, I’ve advocated for socially acceptable, affordable solutions in hearing health technology, and for destigmatization and inclusion in the hearing health community. As a consumer with severe hearing loss, a board member for both the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and a director at an audio technology company, I continue to be a strong advocate for products that enhance the way we hear the world.
With your leadership on this critical issue, my hope is that millions of Americans with hearing loss will no longer suffer financially or emotionally just because of a disability. More than ever before, I’m hopeful that we’re closer to creating new opportunities that will empower people in my community to live a better life. Because when that happens, everyone benefits.
Kristen “KR” Liu