Wall Street corporations band together to stop Sen. Warren’s over-the-counter hearing aid legislation

Studies have shown consistently that well-made over-the-counter hearing aids are just as good, if not better, than traditional hearing aids costing $4000-$6000 or more. That cost is one of the major reasons why people with debilitating hearing loss often isolate rather than get a hearing aid that would improve their lives immensely. (Hearing aids are mostly not covered by employer-based health insurance and are also not covered by Medicare.)

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Charles Grassley (R) finally got legislation passed that would break the monopoly of the Big Five hearing aid manufacturers.

But, with billions of dollar at stake, the industry has been waging a deceptive campaign to blunt or get rid of the changes that would bring affordable personal amplifying devices within reach:

About one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have lost at least some of their hearing, and after 75 that rises to nearly half. Most of these people don’t get hearing aids; indeed, among those with hearing loss age 70 or older, less than one-third have ever even tried hearing aids. Some of these older people are probably stubborn or in denial, but the biggest obstacle is cost. Hearing aids cost a fortune, and Medicare doesn’t cover them. Typically, a pair of hearing aids will sell for $4,000–$6,000.

Congress did something about this in 2017 when it passed a bipartisan bill allowing for the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids, which, thanks to the advent of smartphones and other advances in consumer electronics, will cost perhaps as little as one-tenth as much as their prescription counterparts. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act required the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations for this new category of hearing aids within three years.

The prescription hearing aid industry, led by an oligopoly known as the Big Five, which controls more than 90 percent of the market for hearing aids, failed to stop the bill. But according to a report from the offices of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Grassley as well as a letter they sent to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf—both released Thursday morning—the Big Five are now flexing their muscle to protect their profits and limit how many hearing-impaired people will be able to use the new over-the-counter products.

You can read more here.

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