Currently viewing Vol. 7 • Issue 2 • 2020

Welcome to a Special Issue of Canadian Audiologist Focused on Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’—Yogi Berra

Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids have existed for many years ‘under the radar,’ but have played a relatively marginal role in Canada, where most people obtain hearing aids in a clinic. We are now at a point where they will likely begin to play a larger role. In 2017, the OTC Hearing Aid act was signed in the US, requiring that a standard be developed to define an OTC class of hearing aids. This has yet to be released, but is anticipated for August of 2020. Since Canada tends to follow the lead of the US in these matters, Canadian audiologists fully expect to see an opening of the market to OTC devices on this side of the border as well. However, the form this will take, and the ultimate impact of the availability of OTC aids, are not yet known.

Given that an OTC hearing aid distribution model is designed to provide accessibility without requiring our services, it is tempting to adopt an oppositional stance—to focus primarily on the problems associated with an OTC model and to formulate arguments against allowing OTC hearing aids in Canada. On the other hand, it is difficult to prevent change, and most changes have both positive and negative aspects. A knee-jerk oppositional approach is less likely to result in a positive outcome than a strategic approach that focuses on ways to harness the positive aspects of change and to mitigate the negative aspects.

With this in mind, the Canadian Academy of Audiology has been working to support our members by exploring ways in which this issue can be approached thoughtfully. This has included talks and discussions at our annual CAA conference, the formation of an OTC working group, and articles here in Canadian Audiologist. With this special issue, we are hoping to further the discussion. So welcome this issue, and happy reading!

About the authors

Steve Aiken, PhD

Steve Aiken is an associate professor at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Departments of Surgery, Psychology and Neuroscience at Dalhousie University. He received a master’s degree in Audiology from the University of Western Ontario and a PhD in Medical Science from the University of Toronto. He is a past-president of the Canadian Academy of Audiology, founder of the Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force, associate editor of Canadian Audiologist, and co-chair of the Canadian Hearing and Auditory Research Translation group.

Marlene Bagatto, AuD, PhD

Marlene Bagatto is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the National Centre for Audiology at Western University. She is Past President of the Canadian Academy of Audiology, Chair of the Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pediatric Bone Conduction Hearing Device Working Group. Dr. Bagatto’s research interests relate to policy and practice integration in the area of pediatric audiology.

Steve Armstrong

Steve Armstrong, BEng Electrical

Steve Armstrong, BEng Electrical, started his career designing chips for hearing aids. Taking a systems view of each design element naturally led to developing a deep understanding of the acoustics and psychoacoustics involved in successful amplification. Today, building on his years of hardware experience, Steve provides strategic engineering services in the areas of algorithm, firmware, and fitting software development through his company, SoundsGoodLabs.

Canadian Academy of Audiology OTC Working Group