Hearing loss has both direct and indirect economic implications for individuals and society.


The cost of hearing aids is a well-documented, substantial barrier to accessing the devices among older Americans. Other economic costs include medical expenses and lost productivity, which can generate substantial financial stress for low-income adults. 

Cochlear Center research aims to understand the role of hearing loss on health-related outcomes from an economics perspective. This knowledge supports policy changes and innovative models of care, from trial phase to broader adoption, using cost analysis, modeling estimates, and projections.

Core faculty Nicholas Reed, AuD, PhD explores hearing loss and patient-centered health care outcomes, such as satisfaction and perception of care, through planned analyses in the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, National Health and Aging Trends Study, and Health and Retirement Study. 

Our Research Informs Change

The Cochlear Center highlights findings from this work in high-level policy briefs that illustrate the gaps and opportunities in Medicare coverage of hearing care and hearing aids, and shares them with legislative directors and health policy advisors for Senators and Representatives; budget analysts at the Congressional Budget Office; NASEM; and others.  This evidence has informed major hearing health care policy decisions and efforts, including: 

  • The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. Passed with bipartisan support as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, this Act required the Food & Drug Administration to create a regulatory classification for over-the-counter hearing aids, which will improve access to hearing technologies in the U.S.
  • The Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Plan for the FY2022 budget. The final bill for the Build Back Better Act that was passed out of the House of Representatives in late 2021 specifically included ~$35 billion in funding for the coverage of hearing aids and hearing care services under Medicare, and was the first time that explicit federal funding has been proposed for hearing coverage since the inception of Medicare in 1965.  While the Build Back Better Act stalled in the U.S. Senate, we are optimistic that with the framework of this Medicare hearing benefit now in place, this effort will be resurrected in future sessions of Congress.

The Cochlear Center continues to generate and amplify the science-based evidence that supports the Medicare reforms that will make hearing care coverage available, and hearing aids more accessible and affordable.