Chirping birds, babbling brooks, soft rain showers, and children gleefully playing outdoors – these sounds of spring bring us joy, especially after a long winter. But for the millions of Americans who have hearing loss, full enjoyment of these and other everyday sounds can be out of reach. Others might benefit from listening assistance in certain situations, such as in a noisy restaurant or while watching TV. For too many, even participation in a simple conversation can be difficult.
Luckily, today’s consumer has many options to treat hearing loss or to obtain situational listening assistance. As a result of tremendous innovation, hearing aids are smaller and more personalized than ever. Consumers are also seeing innovation in ways to connect them to hearing care, from assessment tools, to ways to integrate their hearing aids with phones and other equipment, to telehealth tools for delivering hearing care. And for consumers who might benefit from listening assistance in particular situations, a wide range of personal sound amplification products are now available.
Unfortunately, even with so many options on the market, it is estimated that more than 60 percent – and perhaps as many as three-quarters – of adults who could benefit from hearing care do not obtain it. Why? Reasons often include price, accessibility, and stigma. And as the population ages and more Americans find themselves in need of hearing assistance, we can expect an even greater discrepancy between the demand for hearing care and access to it, which is reason for concern.
Given the importance of hearing care to so many American consumers, the FTC is hosting a workshop on Tuesday, April 18 to examine these issues, especially as they relate to competition, innovation, and consumer protection. Workshop participants from diverse backgrounds in industry, advocacy, and academia will share their perspectives on a number of important questions, including:
- How are innovations in hearing technology – including hearing aids, personal sound amplification products, and other platforms – changing the competitive landscape?
- What innovations may be on the horizon?
- How are hearing aids commonly distributed to consumers, and to what extent might changes to this delivery model affect the marketplace?
- What is the consumer experience in the hearing marketplace?
- What is the state and federal regulatory framework governing this area, and what factors should regulators consider as they evaluate potential changes to this framework?
The “Now Hear This” workshop will start at 9:00 am, with Acting Chairman Ohlhausen delivering opening remarks. The event will be webcast live from the FTC’s event web page. Additionally, interested parties may submit comments online through May 18, 2017. Check out the detailed workshop agenda for more information on the schedule of presentations and panels. Watch for updates on Twitter @FTC using the hashtag #NowHearThisFTC, including live tweeting on the day of the workshop.