Hearing Aid Specialist, Stavros Basseas. (Photo: Courtesy of Stavros Basseas)
With the FDA’s decision to make hearing aids available over the counter, more people with mild to moderate hearing loss will be able to afford the life-changing device.
Hearing aid specialist, Stavros Basseas, spoke to The National Herald about the effects of this ruling, how it will benefit people in the United States and beyond, as well as his contribution to the development.
“There is a big problem in the hearing aid market in the United States and globally. Hearing aids are rather expensive because they are heavily medicalized devices, in other words, they need prescription, and Medicare does not cover the cost for dispensing them,” Basseas told TNH.
Hearing has been overlooked as an important indicator of health, and with this movement it will finally be elevated and gain the level of significance it deserves. Basseas mentioned that studies recently show that people have problems of dementia, meaning that are experiencing the onset of the disorder sooner than others who do hear well. Therefore, this has increased the pressure to make a change.
The aim was to develop a new category of products which would be regulated, in terms of their minimum technical requirements, by the government, allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter and sold directly to the consumer without the intervention of the medical channel.
“In the United States, a medical prescription is required, especially for those under 18, in order to obtain hearing aids. The dispensing facilities that are allowed to dispense hearing aids are those who have a licence, making it a heavily medicalized channel that increases costs to the end user. Today the advances in technology give easy access to the end user allowing him to self-test and regulate his/her health i.e., blood pressure, sugar level etc. This is certainly true for hearing aids. The new category doesn’t require either a prescription or a license to dispense these items,” Basseas stated.
“The hope is that this will make the hearing aids more accessible, and it will lower the cost overall because there will be an alternative to the expensive product,” he added.
This new era of hearing aids has been in the making for the last 20 years, and it will finally launch mid-October. The push began during the Obama administration, and Basseas was involved in this effort.
During the interview with TNH, the hearing aid expert gave reading glasses as a key example to understand the bigger picture.
“You need prescriptions to get glasses, but there is a particular category called ‘reading glasses’, where you don’t need prescriptions. All you need to do is visit a store and buy them,” he noted.
Basseas went on to explain that the effect of this is that it allows consumers to have a quick solution that is inexpensive, accessible, and can be addressed immediately. This category of products, over the counter hearing aids will allow more people to solve their problem earlier.
In terms of the European market, he went on to mention that it is not so uniform. “In Greece, for instance, people buy hearing aids over the counter as there is a looser regulatory structure that does not require trained and state licensed dispensers. The Greek state should adapt a similar regulatory technical requirement for all hearing aids like the new FDA requirement. Greece suffers from the flooding of low-quality hearing aids, mostly from China”.
Regarding his own accomplishments, Basseas was responsible for the development of technology for one of the biggest hearing aid companies, Resound/Beltone. He travelled the world, particularly visiting poor countries, coming to understand that the typical products were not a solution.
“I realized that the traditional hearing aids were not really suitable for the realities of the developing countries as there is no infrastructure, no computers, and no stores to purchase them, so we had to create a new category of products,” Basseas said.
Therefore, due to high costs and the lack of access of good quality hearing aids in the global market, he decided to create his own company called, Sound World Solutions. A good portion of the firmware on his hearing aids was developed by experts in Greece over the last 15 years.
“I started to develop similar products that are licensed now as over the counter hearing aids. My aim was to create easily accessible, high-tech, and low-cost products.”
Sound World Solutions also offers Personal Sound Amplifiers (no license needed) and regular over the counter hearing aids, all with identical tools to prove that technology is not the limitation but rather, government regulations need to be changed.
“I began my own company to push for this revolution. It took 20 years but I’m happy it happened in my lifetime and that I made some contributions to it,” the expert told TNH.
Stavros Basseas holds a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is not only an expert with 40 year experience in the design and manufacturing of hearing aids, but also a licensed dispenser offering a unique perspective for this segment of the market. In recognition of his efforts to develop and promote low cost yet high quality and accessible hearing amplification devices, he was invited to the White House during the Obama administration.
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