OTC Hearing Aids Fail To Meet Expectations: NBC Rockford


Despite the 2022 legislation that made over-the-counter hearing aids more accessible for mild to moderate hearing loss, many individuals still struggle with these devices due to their complexity and lack of tech-savviness among the senior population.

Dr. Cherukuri highlights common signs of hearing loss, such as frequently asking others to repeat themselves and misunderstanding questions, which are often first noticed by friends or family.

He distinguishes between over-the-counter and prescription hearing aids, noting the latter’s customizability but also acknowledging barriers to access.

Despite expectations of a surge in over-the-counter hearing aid use, this did not occur, largely due to difficulties in use and insufficient customer support.

Dr. Cherukuri recommends seeking a hearing test and consulting a doctor as first steps for those experiencing hearing loss and mentions alternative treatments for those who find hearing aids unsuitable.

He also introduces ClearCast, an innovative product designed to improve hearing by amplifying specific conversations while reducing background noise, addressing the gap in effective treatment for hearing loss.


Jake Pearson: Despite 2022’s landmark legislation, which increased access to affordable over the counter hearing aids, individuals with hearing difficulties are seeking out alternative methods of treatment. Joining us now is Dr. Sreek Cherukuri, a hearing aid expert. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: Thank you for having me. So starting things off, what are some common signs of symptoms of hearing loss that family or friends should be looking out for? Well, from the very obvious people asking to repeat themselves, What did you say? Things like that. Or they’re answering the wrong question. Or they op and nod when they can’t hear and understand the question.

Those are the most common signs of hearing loss. But usually it’s a family member or friend that will identify it. Not the person with hearing loss because it’s hard, it’s very slow. Creeps on gradually, and it’s hard to recognize.

Jake Pearson: Yeah. And then, you know, talk to me a little bit about what the differences are between an over the counter hearing aid and traditional hearing aids. Because, you know, I feel like myself and many others didn’t weren’t even aware that over the counter hearing aids were an option.

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: This is a new legislation from 2022 that allowed the early stages of hearing loss, like mild and moderate hearing loss to get access to hearing aids that are sold in drugstores.

And, uh, electronic stores. Those are largely self, uh, driven. Like, you have to figure it out yourself. The, the best answer is the prescription hearing aid where you see a doctor or an audiologist. You’ll get a hearing test and a custom programmed hearing aid to your needs, but there’s a lot of obstacles for people that go that route.

And as a result of the 40 million people with hearing loss, only about 24 percent use hearing aids.

Jake Pearson: Yeah. And then according to an over the counter hearing aid survey, uh, there was a surge expected for the new hearing aids, but that surge never came. Do you perhaps know why that is?

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: Again, hearing aids are hard to use.They have to be figured out the seniors that need them often aren’t very tech savvy. And, uh, the, the over the counter support is not really there. You have to go to a shelf and maybe read it on your own. The salespeople don’t really know a lot about them. So it didn’t get off the, off the ground as a lot of us in the industry would have hoped.

Jake Pearson: Mm hmm. Yeah, and you know, for those who are hard of hearing, uh, what are perhaps some alternative methods that they can pursue to access better treatment?

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: Great question. So the first thing is get a hearing test if you can, and see a doctor. Make sure there’s nothing wrong with the ear. I’m an ear, nose, and throat doctor, so that’s what we definitely recommend as a first step. Now hearing aids are great, but they’re not for everybody. Again, they’re expensive, they’re hard to use, they’re really hard to manipulate.

Mm hmm. And for some people like a homebound senior or somebody whose hands don’t move too well, or they don’t need a solution all day, that might not be the best choice and now there’s some new alternatives on the market

Jake Pearson: Yeah, and then one more quick one here doctor, uh, you know through that same over the counter hearing aid survey Uh, it showed that for more than half of americans adults age 40 and up 56 percent acknowledge that they lack some excellent hearing abilities But only 8 percent have been treated. Do you perhaps have an idea as to why this might be the case?

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: Yes, similar to what we talked about, the devices aren’t easy to use. They don’t really amplify sounds and they struggle in background noise. So what we developed is something called the ClearCast. It’s a product you wear around your neck and you put the earbuds in and it amplifies the exact conversation you want to hear as opposed to all the background noise.

It has two modes. One is a built in microphone right here and then one is a remote microphone you can place anywhere you want. And you will hear the conversation on the television program much clearer than a standard hearing aid. So we hope innovations like this will help people that have hearing loss get a higher quality of life.

Jake Pearson: Certainly an innovative piece of technology, but that is all the time that we have for our interview today. Dr. Cherukuri, thank you so much again for joining us.

Dr. Sreek Cherukuri: Thanks for having me, and you can find out more at clearcasthearing com.

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