Hearing Health and Technology -- Workshop, Project No. P171200
The workshop covered many things related to pricing, however, what the workshop failed to cover is why the price of the devices are so expensive from the manufacturer. The manufacturer produces multiple different lines and gives higher discounts to the government contracts and places like Costco (who we have been told does not receive the absolute latest technology), while the private practitioner is left to pay the necessary overhead to compensate for the lost overhead from the other sales. Additionally, hearing aid manufacturers employ researchers and are continuously developing their products, therefore, saying that something is "premium" now is not the same as "premium" even a year ago. The technology is ever changing and improving, but the name remains the same. This is kind of like saying that the premium cell phone from the 1980s is the same as the premium cell phone of today. Todays cell phones are more expensive than the ones in the 1980's, but they are more advanced. One more comment: consumers do not have direct access to professional help for their hearing issues. Instead of placing hearing aids over the counter, it would be a better idea to remove the barriers to getting professional help, as research study after research study, in addition to satisfaction reports, all lead that professional service with hearing aids leads to the highest rates of satisfaction. If the FTC wouldn't put braces for teeth over the counter for a DIY, then why put a high tech medical device for hearing that requires professional service for non-harmful outcome over the counter? Despite popular belief, hearing aids are not just items a person puts in their ear. They are high tech devices that require exact frequency tuning. Not all hearing aids or styles are good for all hearing losses or ear canals. I will be fine with over the counter hearing aids when the consumer has enough knowledge to know when they are not appropriate candidates for cochlear implants, they can demonstrate which style of hearing aid is most appropriate for their hearing loss, and they are able to accurately describe if they have a middle or inner ear problem. To this date, most consumers can not do this and despite copious amounts of google and talking to friends, they still can not accurately describe these things or know what is causing their hearing loss or where it is originating from. This is a hazard to the consumer, as displayed by Japans satisfaction rate of OTC hearing aids. Placing over hearing aids over the counter does very little to increase market competition, as those that are currently in the market have decades of experience with hearing aids, fitting rationales, verification and validation methods, and medical research. Companies such as Bose simply do not and we are opening up the American public to be ripped off and possibly harmed in the long run. Over the counter devices are not the answer. Pricing regulation and pricing transparency of the dispenser and the manufacturer are what is necessary to drive the price of hearing aids down without driving the satisfaction rates down or incidence of harm up.