Except for politics and earmold venting, there is not a more contentious topic among hearing care professionals than the re-regulation of hearing aids. Upon second thought, the re-regulation of hearing aids is wholly a political issue, and it’s a topic that Hearing News Watch has covered for more than two years.
Twenty-seventeen marked the third consecutive year hearing aid re-regulation was a hot news topic. A prickly topic that started in October 2015 with coverage of the PCAST report and their suggested recommendations to improve access and affordability of hearing aids, continued through 2016 with a similar report issued by the NASEM group and growing FDA involvement. This year the topic gained more forward momentum, as President Trump signed into law the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act in mid-August.
Our coverage of this legislative act was one of HHTMs most widely read posts in 2017, and even if you read the piece, it might be worth taking another glance at it. Linked to that August Hearing News article on the signing of the law, which gives the FDA three years to create safety and labeling regulations, was a revealing survey of audiologist opinions regarding OTC devices. The survey was conducted the first week of August, and although opinions of the looming new OTC category varied, it is safe to conclude the majority of audiologists hold a negative opinion of OTC and how they will be regulated.
Some of the highlights of that survey include:
- 65% of audiologists surveyed believe OTC hearing aids will have either a “negative” or “very negative” impact on audiology’s future.
- Consumer electronics companies like Apple, Samsung, and others, were seen by respondents (61%) as being the greatest beneficiaries of the OTC hearing aid legislation that recently passed in the House and Senate
- 52% of audiologists surveyed felt that OTC hearing aids would likely hurt their clinic, compared with 9% that said OTC hearing aids would help their clinic
New Year, New Directions
Now that 2018 is upon us and OTC legislation has been put into action, it will be interesting to see if these opinions move in a more positive direction. Surprising developments, like consumer fondness for effective new technology, or a political crisis of some kind in Washington DC could alter the path of OTC in unexpected ways. At the end of the day, it motivates many of us to pay close attention and have an opinion. Hearing News Watch will be there to cover it and provide a forum for a wide range of thoughtful opinions.
Speaking of thoughtful opinions, Holly Hosford Dunn, managing editor of HHTM and editor of Hearing Economics, and Wayne Staab, editor-in-chief of HHTM and editor of Wayne’s World always have a few. Each has decided to step away from their roles at HHTM. Both of them wear many hats at HHTM and were instrumental in the founding of the blog several years ago.
Like many of you, I was familiar with Holly and Wayne’s past work. Having had the chance to work directly with them for three years, I can say each in their own right is an iconoclast. Their wisdom, enthusiasm and work ethic will be greatly missed and difficult to replace. Even more important to me, they represent the graceful aging of the second generation of Audiology – a group that took audiology from academia and the research lab and placed Audiology into the boardroom and business suite.
Because of their diverse backgrounds they were some of the first audiologists who worked in start-up companies, owned private practices and consulted with other professions in need of hearing science or amplification expertise. Today, there are hundreds of audiologists working in manufacturing, business development or with a start-up company looking to tap into the market for hearing healthcare. Those audiologists owe Wayne and Holly a debt of gratitude. Both of them were trendsetters, authors and opinions leaders that bridged the gap between academic audiology and the Business of Audiology.
True pioneers: you probably didn’t know about them when you were in graduate school, but once you were in the real world, you heard their names often because they always brought a lot of practical wisdom to the table. That pioneering spirit is plastered all over the pages of HHTM, as Holly’s Hearing Economics column and Wayne’s World (see his December post on self-fitting hearing aids, for example) are virtual textbooks of relevant information and insight. Practice owners, clinical managers, hearing instrument specialists, sales forces – they’ve known the value of Holly and Wayne’s insights for years.
I hope in 10 or 20 years – a decade or more into their retirement – when they look back on their career accomplishments, they include the HHTM blog as one of the highlights.
*featured image tokkoro