Speaker 2: It is estimated that 48 million Americans are said to suffer from some form of hearing loss but as many as 80% of them won’t turn to hearing aids partly because of the high cost. There is a push to change that and one Chicago doctor is trying to lead the charge.
Fox 32 Sylvia Perez has more.
Sylvia Perez: Linda Irving has just recently started wearing hearing aids.
Linda Irving: You don’t realize the sounds you’re missing until you hear them again.
Sylvia Perez: Irving says she never considered purchasing hearing aids. They’re not covered by Medicaid or most health insurance companies and she says the cost was just too expensive. Then she met this man.
Dr. Cherukuri: It’s a massive out-of-pocket expense.
Sylvia Perez: Dr. Sreek Cherukuri is a board certified otolaryngologist or Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. He wants hearing aids to not only be more affordable but also eventually available over the counter. He says the average cost of one hearing aid is over $2,000 and most people need two.
Dr. Cherukuri: If you can imaging a $5,000 hearing aid has no more than $300 in components and they’s not many products with that kind of markup.
Sylvia Perez: Dr. Cherukuri says it’s more than just being able to hear. Recent studies have linked hearing loss to numerous health conditions including depression, anxiety, social isolation, falling and even dementia. After medical school, Dr. Cherukuri made it his mission to come up with affordable, high-quality hearing aids that don’t require a prescription and can be bought online. His company is called MDHearing.
Dr. Cherukuri: The vast majority customers have a very similar configuration of hearing loss. We programed our hearing aids to have either two, three or four different configuration settings along with a volume dial.
Sylvia Perez: His newest is a rechargeable hearing aid that doesn’t require batteries.
MDHearings are FDA registered as a Class I medical device and are made of high quality components that you’ll find in more expensive, traditional hearing aids. He recommends patients first get a hearing exam to make sure they find the right fit. For Linda Irving, the proof is in her recovery of the sounds in the world around her.
Linda Irving: Oh my goodness. You can hear the birds and the rustle of trees. Those things were lost.
Sylvia Perez: Sylvia Perez, Fox 32 News.
Speaker 2: Dr. Cherukuri says there are currently over-the-counter amplification devices sold at drug stores but they are not considered a legitimate replacement for hearing aids by many in the medical community.