Wednesday 10 August 2011

Industry Article - reading about over the counter hearing aid supply idea

This blog article from the Starkey web resource discusses the merits of an 'over the counter' type of service model in relation to the current delivery mechanism:

'Hearing-impaired individuals have a variety of amplification options available to them. Audiologists help patients select the most appropriate hearing aids based on their hearing loss, lifestyle and listening needs, manual dexterity and a number of other factors.  Financial constraints are often a consideration as well, so hearing aid manufacturers offer a wide selection of circuit types, including some more basic, economical choices.

In today's economy, consumers seem more concerned than ever about hearing aid cost. Not surprisingly, there has been an increase in the availability of inexpensive, over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices. The price of an OTC instrument can range from under $50 to several hundred dollars each. While some of these devices might fit the FDA definition of "hearing aids" (FDA, 2007a; S874.3300), their distribution often does not meet FDA requirements. For instance, the FDA requires a person buying a hearing aid to be examined by a physician to rule out medical contraindications and a medical waiver must be signed if they choose not to obtain medical clearance. Most OTC devices are purchased in a retail store or over the internet, so the consumer never interacts with an audiologist and may never be asked for proof of medical clearance. Indeed, the authors of the current study found only one OTC manufacturer that asked consumers to sign a medical waiver prior to purchase. ......'

The main emphasis appears to be cost reduction within the current model, which I don't feel adequately acknowledges the longer term servicing and upkeep costs associated with hearing aids. Increasing disposability of hearing aids (Songbird etc) has only ever really ended up with dissatisfaction on the part of wearers. The concept of 'buying into' the process both in terms of product and metaphorically seems to have been lost on the authors. 

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