The New York Times has published an excellent summary of the forces arrayed in the fight for lower hearing aid prices. It gives one hope that the long march toward lower prices for quality hearing aids may actually be gaining momentum. The story also has links to background info on upcoming milestones, including:
- President’s Council report on lowering costs of hearing aids.
- FDA public hearing on how to encourage wider hearing aid adoption.
- Institute of Medicine report on federal regulation, insurance and price of hearing aids.
For more detail on each of these three developments, read more.
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) got the ball rolling last fall with a report recommending that the Federal Trade Commission enable a quicker and less expensive hearing aid prescription process similar to what is available for eyeglasses and contact lenses; that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) create a new category for “basic” hearing aids that can be sold over-the-counter without a prescription; and that the FDA rescind previous guidance on personal sound amplifiers to allow claims that they improve hearing and speech comprehension.
In April the FDA will hold a public hearing on steps it can take to encourage more widespread use of hearing aids and more innovation in hearing-aid product development. It also asked for public comment on potential new guidance on rules governing sales of hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers.
In June, the Institute of Medicine will issue a report on hearing health that addresses federal regulation, insurance and price of hearing aids, following a two-year study that included contributions from the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute on Aging, the Pentagon and others.
Taken together, these investigations, hearings and recommendations may well be the perfect storm that motivates change in a market that for years has failed to follow the technology price/performance reduction curve that many consumer and information technology products have followed.
If efforts to lower prices of hearing aids are successful, the beneficiaries will be the tens of millions of adults around the world who have trouble hearing but can’t yet afford to get the help they need.