The FDA Misses the Mark on Hearing Help

You're still on your own, folks...

Last week, we published an article on hearing loss and barriers to adequate care. That same day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") issued a ruling that we thought might be helpful. It wasn't...

Here's an excerpt from the FDA press release with a few key points in bold type:

This action establishes a new category of over-the-counter ("OTC") hearing aids, enabling consumers with perceived mild to moderate hearing impairment to purchase hearing aids directly from stores or online retailers without the need for a medical exam, prescription, or a fitting adjustment by an audiologist...

Hearing aids that do not meet the requirements for the OTC category (for example, because they are intended for severe hearing impairment or users younger than age 18) are prescription devices.

Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't buy glasses without a vision test or dentures without a proper fitting. Taking into account the fragility of our inner ears, wearing inappropriate hearing aids that are programmed to amplify sounds louder than your actual needs can further damage your ability to hear.

And part of the goal of hearing aids is not just to make sounds louder but also to make them clearer and more natural. This is important because there are different kinds of hearing loss. One size definitely does not fit all.

Some folks experience conductive hearing loss, which is a mechanical problem with the ear. Conductive hearing loss can be the result of things like impacted ear wax, allergies, or a ruptured ear drum.

Other folks experience what's called sensorineural hearing loss as the result of damage to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss can be caused by things like aging, noise damage, or exposure to certain drugs.

And others may experience a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, arising from genetic disorders, infections, or head trauma.

We had a number of folks write in to say they're already getting hearing aids from places like Costco. Thank you all for your input. One reader, G.C., told us...

My insurance pays for hearing aids at 90% but every hearing center I went to wanted me to sign a paper saying I would pay anything the insurance would not cover. What I found out was, the hearing centers would charge a huge amount, much more than the insurance contracted amount allowed (thus having me sign to pay the difference). After trying three hearing centers and seeing they all do the same, I went to Costco. Free hearing tests and I got their brand for $1,400 (which was the exact same version white boxed that the hearing place wanted $9,000 for).

As we mentioned last week, there is an affordable way to test your hearing from home.

We'll keep following the latest on health care coverage for hearing tests and hearing aids, but keep sending us your tips in the meantime. How else do you save money on health care in your retirement? Let us know at [email protected].

Now, here are some of the things on your minds this week...

Q: Any difference between hot and cold tea benefits? – W.Y.

A: There isn't a significant difference...

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found steeping your tea in cold water actually maximizes the health benefits, compared with steeping in hot water. But it takes two hours of steeping in cold to get all the antioxidant power.

One of my researchers makes a pitcher of tea once a week so she has a cup of tea ready to go every morning without having to steep individual cups overnight.

But plenty of folks like a hot, fresh cup. The concern there is the potential danger of drinking hot liquids. And if you're worried about drinking tea that's too hot, you're not alone. Several studies over the years found associations between drinking hot beverages and esophageal cancer.

The belief is that too-hot beverages can burn the lining of the throat the same way they would skin. Burns damage cells... The body then generates new cells to replace them... And these new cells could have mutations that lead to cancer. Basically, whenever you damage and replace cells over and over, there's a higher chance of developing cancer.

In addition, whenever you burn yourself, you injure that tissue. It feels red and painful because your body is fighting the damage. That redness is inflammation, which also causes problems like heart disease and cancer over time.

If you're worried, give your tea or coffee five to 10 minutes to cool down.

Here are a few good tips to get it to cool down...

1) Wait a few minutes. Usually letting your tea or coffee sit for about five to 10 minutes allows it enough time to cool. Depending on the temperature outside, you can enjoy your drink on a walk, too, as it cools off in the air.

2) Lower the temperature. Many folks I know add a few ice cubes to hot coffee to drink it faster. And some places like Starbucks allow you to request lower temperatures on your drinks (try asking for 140 degrees).

3) Add milk. We've got the Brits to thank for this research. According to a study from Queen Victoria Hospital, adding 10 milliliters (about 2 teaspoons) of cold milk to piping hot tea (usually brewed at about 200 degrees) lowers the temperature safely below 149 degrees in five minutes.

Feel free to enjoy your drink how you like.

Q: How can I find back issues of the bulletin? Recently Doc, discussed sunscreens and I seem to have deleted the e-mail, is there a way to find it on the website? Thank you. – M.R.

A: Of course! We keep a full archive of our issues (nearly 2,000 of them) on our website – You can always search for specific topics there by using the search tool at the top right of the webpage.

For information on sunscreen, check out this issue on the dangers of sunscreen.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 26, 2022