In the United States 49 million people have some type of hearing loss. Many people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have some hearing. The amount of hearing a deaf or hard-of-hearing person has is called "residual hearing." A hearing aid does not "cure" hearing loss, but may help to make the most of their residual hearing by making sounds louder. A hearing aid may be worn by people of any age, including infants. The Department recommends a doctor be consulted to rule out medical causes of hearing loss before buying hearing aids. For children 18 years old or younger, a medical evaluation is required.
Hearing aids are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be recommended, sold and fit by qualified health professionals because not every individual with a hearing loss is assumed to be good a candidate for a hearing aid. For the purpose of protecting deaf and hard of hearing citizens, the Hearing Instrument Consumer Protection Act (225 ILCS 50 see LAWS & RULES in the right-hand column) regulates the sale of hearing aids in Illinois. This law makes the Department responsible for assessing the competency skills, by examination, of potential hearing instrument dispensers, the licensing of dispensers, responding to consumer complaints/inquiries and assuring dispenser continuing education upon license renewal. While the Department does not license audiologists for the purpose of hearing instrument dispensing, audiologists, who are licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), are required to follow the administrative code as it pertains to the sale and dispensing of hearing instruments.
For more information about the requirements for selling hearing instruments and obtaining a Hearing Instrument Dispenser License in Illinois contact us at DPH.Visionandhearing@illinois.gov. See also the links in the right-hand column for the Hearing Instrument Consumer Protection Act (225 ILCS 50) and associated rules and regulations in the Illinois Administrative Code. Links to informational resources regarding hearing loss and the purchase of a hearing instrument also are listed in the right-hand column.