Why Veterans Should Be Concerned About H.R. 353

The Veterans’ Access to Hearing Health Act of 2015

Veterans deserve the best hearing care possible and they vote. Digital Vision/Getty Images

Hearing loss and tinnitus are some of the most common health issues for our veterans. H.R. 353 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Duffy; the text of the bill claims to address the long wait times of veterans to obtain hearing care services by adding hearing aid dispensers as eligible providers.

While this may seem like a good idea on the surface to people outside healthcare, it means providing less qualified providers to manage and treat hearing loss.

Audiologists are doctoral-level professionals with advanced training in hearing loss, hearing aid fitting, anatomy, vestibular (balance) disorders, auditory processing disorders, acoustic trauma, and tinnitus. In contrast, hearing aid dispensers have a high school diploma and basic training in hearing evaluation and hearing aid fittings. They are simply not qualified to adequately identify and treat complicated patients; most veterans have multiple health issues that can impact hearing and need to be seen by an audiologist for proper care.

Hearing loss has been linked with brain atrophy, especially in areas responsible for processing language. These areas are also involved in memory and sensory integration; studies of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease have implicated atrophy in these areas.  In addition to cognitive effects, hearing loss has negative social, psychological, and overall health implications.

By not insisting on the highest qualified professionals to treat hearing loss, the House of Representatives is compromising the overall physical and mental health of veterans.  

Another issue with this legislation is that it is unnecessary. Veterans who live beyond a reasonable distance of a VA or have a wait time longer than 30 days to see an audiologist are able to see offsite contracted audiologists in their communities or take advantage of telehealth options.

In the most basic terms, this legislation should be of concern to Veterans as it represents providing less qualified healthcare. Veterans  - and other concerned citizens – can find their congressman by zip code. Emails are available online. For calls, dial 202-225-3121 for the U.S. Representatives switchboard.

The following representatives are co-sponsors of H.R. 35. It is important to contact them to explain why this legislation compromises the quality of care for veterans and to remind them that veterans vote:

Rep. Walz, Timothy J. [D-MN-1]

Rep. Ruiz, Raul [D-CA-36]

Rep. Thompson, Glenn [R-PA-5]

Rep. Cartwright, Matt [D-PA-17]

Rep. Cramer, Kevin [R-ND-At Large]

Rep. Latta, Robert E. [R-OH-5]

Rep. Nugent, Richard B. [R-FL-11]

Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4]

Rep. Jones, Walter B., Jr. [R-NC-3]

Rep. Valadao, David G. [R-CA-21]

Rep. Ribble, Reid J. [R-WI-8]

Rep. Newhouse, Dan [R-WA-4]

Rep. Gibson, Christopher P. [R-NY-19]

Rep. Grothman, Glenn [R-WI-6]

Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5]

Rep. Bustos, Cheri [D-IL-17]

Rep. Rouzer, David [R-NC-7]

Rep. Coffman, Mike [R-CO-6]

Rep. Cole, Tom [R-OK-4]

Rep. Diaz-Balart, Mario [R-FL-25]

Rep. Conyers, John, Jr. [D-MI-13]

Rep. Lowenthal, Alan S. [D-CA-47]

Rep. Bishop, Mike [R-MI-8]

Rep. Abraham, Ralph Lee [R-LA-5]

Rep. Hurd, Will [R-TX-23]

Rep. Lance, Leonard [R-NJ-7]

Rep. Perry, Scott [R-PA-4]

Rep. Kind, Ron [D-WI-3]

Rep. Kline, John [R-MN-2]

Rep. McKinley, David B. [R-WV-1]


Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss (n.d.). The Better Hearing Institute. Accessed July 23, 2015 from http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/consequences-hearing-loss

Lin FR, Metter EJ, O'Brien RJ, Resnick SM, Zonderman A, Ferrucci L. Hearing loss and incident dementia. Arch Neurol. 2011 Feb;68(2):214-20

Lin FR, Ferrucci L, Metter EJ, An Y, Zonderman AB, Resnick SM. Hearing loss and cognition in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Neuropsychology. 2011 Nov;25(6):763-70.

What You Need to Hear about Hearing Health and How Your Audiologist Can Help (n.d.). Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Accessed July 23, 2015 from http://www.audiologist.org/_resources/documents/patients/Hear_for_you.pdf

Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services (updated June 10, 2015). U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed July 23, 2015 from http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/psas/Hearing_Aids.asp

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