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Florida Lawmakers Deaf to the Needs of Hearing Aid Users

Florida says "hearing aid specialists" must pass multiple tests and be certified to conduct a full audiological exam, essentially quizzing them on skills and tech dating back to the 1950s.

It wouldn't make much sense to require employees at Best Buy to understand the inner workings of vacuum tubes. Or to mandate that Apple Store staffers be fluent in the ancient language of telephone switchboards. Yet Florida says "hearing aid specialists" must pass multiple tests and be certified to conduct a full audiological exam, essentially quizzing them on skills and tech dating back to the 1950s.

Those requirements are completely unnecessary for the proper fitting and testing of modern hearing aids, which are radically different than the obtrusive, potentially painful devices of your grandparents' era. Today's aids are sleek mini-speakers that nestle inside the ear canal. They can be configured over a Bluetooth connection with a computer or smartphone.

And making people take antiquated classes limits access to hearing assistance providers and drives up the costs of hearing care, according to one practitioner.

Dan Taylor has been a hearing aid specialist in Florida for more than 30 years. Last year, he declined to renew his license in protest of the onerous licensing rules. In response, the Sunshine State slapped him with a cease-and-desist letter, threatening to force him into an early retirement. In a federal lawsuit filed in April, Taylor challenged the legitimacy of Florida's hearing aid licensing scheme.

Taylor's lawsuit notes that he's not challenging the idea that hearing aids are medical devices. He continues to comply with many layers of federal rules.

But Florida's laws aren't merely out of step with the times. They're also at odds with those from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2016, that agency abolished a requirement that hearing aid specialists give comprehensive exams before fitting patients with devices. The FDA now says only that patients must have a prescription from a medical doctor before seeking out a specialist for a fitting.

"The federal government has studied and determined that the type of hearing aids Dan sells pose no meaningful health or safety risks," says Larry Salzman, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Taylor.

The FDA is now actively urging states to kill rules like the one in Florida, which it says are "a barrier to access with no substantial enhancement of patient safety."

Photo Credit: KeithBishop/iStock

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  • Shirley Knott||

    But mah Federalism! Local control for greater freedom!

  • Eddy||

    It's not like there would be a huge market for hearing aids in Florida.

    /sarc

  • Earth Skeptic||

    WHAT???

  • AlmightyJB||

    He said to get off his lawn.

  • Jerryskids||

    Florida should just slap a tariff on hearing aids sold by non-members of the medical cartel and subsidize professionally licensed audiologists like all the best economists recommend.

  • Mark22||

    Florida says "hearing aid specialists" must pass multiple tests and be certified to conduct a full audiological exam, essentially quizzing them on skills and tech dating back to the 1950s.

    This is fully justified based on the rational basis test for government actions:

    A government action is permissible when it is "rationally related" to a "legitimate" interest of a large political donor or group of friends of a politician.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I took hearing tests for several years to establish a baseline so I'd have some objective way f knowing if I needed a hearing aid. All was fine (right ear somewhat deficient) and the audiologist was quite honest about not needing a hearing aid. She did once say that a new batch of hearing aids had come in, and she'd loan me a pair if I wanted to try them. But while they could be adjusted by PC, the software could not be given away, so every adjustment would require going back to her office. She thought it was stupid, but there it was, and she couldn't do anything about it. I was not about to try $3000 hearing aids which required office visits to experiment with; how could I even tell what adjustments worked best under what circumstances if I couldn't adjust them on the spot? I don't care if they would improve my hearing in some circumstances, because I'd never know what they were really capable of.

    What a racket! And the audiologist agreed.

    Then the center switched to a new audiologist whose sole interest was selling me hearing aids. I even got him to agree that my hearing hadn't changed in five years according to their own tests, but he kept spouting the line that I should consider hearing aids, now, because ... no reason.

    I'd really like to find a hearing center for annual tests that didn't also sell hearing aids.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Scarecrow, go to a doctor. Unexplained one-sided hearing loss always needs to be checked out medically. Rarely, it can signal a potentially life-threatening (or life ruining) "benign" tumor affecting the auditory nerve first, and then the brain. It's a medically treatable condition that develops very slowly—and never metastasizes—but left alone proceeds slowly toward catastrophe. Seek medical advice especially if you have experienced even one mysterious episode of vertigo during the interval while your hearing declined, or even several years prior to the start of the decline.

    Of course, you may already have heard about this from your audiologist.

    Anyway, you almost certainly don't have the problem, because it is rare. I happen to know two people who do have it. The condition is called acoustic neuroma, if you want to look it up.

  • Guy Gadbois||

    Can you hear me now?

  • JSR2||

    "The FDA now says only that patients must have a prescription from a medical doctor before seeking out a specialist for a fitting."


    I'm certain that my doctor did not write a prescription for me before I went the the hearing aid store near me (he didn't know I was going). I suppose it's possible that the specialist contacted him for a prescription AFTER I made an appointment.

  • gphx||

    'Can you hear me now?'

    Didn't seem to difficult...

  • loveconstitution1789||

    WHAT !?!

  • Agammamon||

    WHAT?

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Did you say watt?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Wat?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Wat?

  • Echospinner||

    I have hearing aids.

    I went through an audiologist who did a full exam. The advantage is is you get a diagnosis as to type (sensorineural or conductive) which may require different approaches. Some kinds of conductive loss could be corrected by an ENT or you could have simple wax buildup.

    There is a spectrum of frequencies. The hearing aids are tuned to match the specific frequencies lost. They could be different from one side to the other. So you need to know something about hearing and how the ear works to do it right.

    Cost a bit more but I do not have to pay to go back to her for any problems, retesting, batteries or adjustments. If anything happens, the cat destroyed one, they replace it for a copay much less than new, and I get a loaner until the new one comes in.

  • Drave Robber||

    You don't need a hearing aid, it's just that my pronunciation is awful.

  • Echospinner||

    Looks like the complaint is that there is 'credentials creep'. The state keeps adding requirements to renew the license until the whole process is just ridiculous.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    Hearing aids can be extremely dangerous. See, for instance, here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwoEhfA-kHg&t=48s

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    I was once in a loud restaurant with my father in San Francisco, and he couldn't hear me and kept saying "what?" until I got annoyed and suggested maybe he should get a hearing aid. Without missing a second he answered: "Hearing-AIDS is a disease you get by listening to too many assh*les!"

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