An op-ed in Roll Call’s print edition today calls attention to the need for audiologists to continue serving the nation’s veterans who return from deployment with hearing loss or tinnitus. Written by ASHA Chief Staff Officer for Audiology Neil DiSarno, the article responds to legislation introduced in Congress by Reps. Sean P. Duffy (R-Wisconsin) and Tim Walz (D-Minnesota) that would allow technicians—such as hearing aid specialists—to independently attend to veterans’ hearing needs.
The proposed legislation (HR 353 in The House of Representatives) was spurred by long wait times for services at Veterans Affairs hospitals among large numbers of veterans with hearing issues — about 350,000 reporting tinnitus and 250,000 reporting hearing loss.
However, this legislation (for which the Senate version is S 564), writes DiSarno, is “unwise because it opens the door for inadequate care, allowing people with no real clinical training or health sciences background to evaluate the hearing health care needs and well-being of our veterans, many of whom have blast injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, balance issues and closed-head injuries.” DiSarno goes on to say that, “Caring for them can entail challenging audiologic assessments and treatment options that require the extensive education and training of a doctor of audiology.”
DiSarno points out that the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, passed in 2014, renders this new proposed legislation unnecessary because it allows veterans to receive timely, comprehensive hearing care from audiologists via the private sector. He also notes that the American Academy of Audiology and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology join ASHA in opposing the proposed legislation.