Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, and a new effort launched by the Food and Drug Administration hopes to save that population a lot of money by making the devices available over the counter, according to Currently, the FDA requires a patient to get a medical evaluation before receiving hearing aids, which cost around $4,600 for a pair — an expense Medicare doesn’t usually cover. The new effort will abolish the need for medical exams and Andrew Scholnick, senior legislative rep for the AARP, told STAT that the move, “will greatly reduce the cost of hearing aids, increase their availability and help to remove the stigma associated with hearing loss.”

He Can Strum, Too

A man of many talents, Francis Collins, M.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health, used his guitar skills to jam on a traditional song with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As part of this year's J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture, the two performed the folkie-sounding "How Can I Keep From Singing?" which is not to be confused with the "Saturday Night Live" skit with the signature phrase, "Don't Make Me Sing." Rock on, Dr. Collins!

Zika still a cause for concern

The World Health Organization declared Zika no longer a global health emergency in November, but The New York Times reports that at least four babies have been born in New York City with Zika-related brain developments since July, bringing the total to five. The Zika coverage has tapered off since the virus has slowed across the globe, but the threat facing pregnant mothers and babies born with microcephaly and other Zika-related birth defects will be felt for a while. The numbers were part of an alert sent to physicians from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reminding them to stay focused on spreading prevention techniques to keep up the fight against the virus.

Life expectancy drops

One of the best indicators of the well-being of a country is the expected life span of its citizens. That’s bad news considering the overall U.S. death rate has just increased from 724.6 per 100,000 people to 731.1 per 100,000 — the first increase in a decade, according to a National Public Radio report. The data are based on 2015 metrics, and also led to a drop in life expectancy for the first time since 1993. The average life span for an American male dropped from 76.5 to 76.3 years. For women, numbers fell from 81.3 to 81.2 years. “There’s no better indicator of well-being than life expectancy,” said Philip Morgan, a demographer at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, to NPR. “The fact that it’s leveling off in the U.S. is a striking finding.”