DOI: 10.1044/2023_jslhr-23-00306 ISSN: 1092-4388

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids Challenge the Core Values of Traditional Audiology

Katherine N. Menon, Michelle Hoon-Starr, Katie Shilton, Eric C. Hoover
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


Regulatory changes in the United States introduced over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids with the goal of increasing the accessibility and affordability of hearing health care. It is critical to understand the values inherent to hearing health care systems to evaluate their effectiveness in serving people with hearing difficulty. In this study, we evaluated the relative importance of values across service delivery models and the extent to which the introduction of OTC hearing aids represents a values shift relative to traditional audiology.


We performed a qualitative content analysis of two document categories: critique documents that motivated the creation of OTC hearing aids and regulatory documents that defined OTC hearing aids. Team members coded portions of text for the values they expressed. In total, 29,235 words were coded across 72 pages in four documents. Rank-order analyses were performed to determine the prioritization of values within each category of documents and subsequently compare values between OTC and traditional audiology documents analyzed in a previous study.


Critique and regulatory documents both prioritized values related to reducing barriers to hearing aid access and use, but the lack of a significant correlation in the rank order of values in these documents was evidence of inconsistency between the motivation and implementation of OTC hearing aids. Differences in the rank order of values in the OTC documents compared to traditional audiology were consistent with a values shift.


The introduction of OTC as a solution to low hearing aid use represents a values shift, challenging the values of traditional audiology. This research demonstrates a need to establish the values of hearing health care service delivery through a consensus of stakeholders, including individuals from diverse backgrounds underserved by the traditional model.

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