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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced, the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act (S. 670) which has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. On the surface this bill is being presented as consumer friendly, but when Sen. Warren introduces legislation that is allegedly opening up the market to lower the cost for consumers and increase competition, it is suspect to say the least.
The two main categories of devices this bill address are personal sound amplification products (PSAPs) and hearing aids. There is not a functional difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplification products, but the definition of each remains in the intended use of the device.
PSAPs are used to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers for example, listening to lectures, listening to soft sounds, or listening for prey while hunting, where a hearing aid is used for the purpose of compensating for hearing loss. Similarly, you can buy over-the-counter reading glasses inexpensively that contain magnified reading lenses, compared to prescription lenses which are at a much higher price point.
PSAPs are not currently regulated by the FDA and are sold inexpensively over-the-counter. The cost of hearing aids is expensive, and typically not covered by insurance. When purchasing a hearing aid similar to prescription eyeglasses you are also paying a large service fee to the health care professional which can include a consultation, testing, fitting and cleanings. Hearing aids are considered medical devices and PSAPs do not fall under this classification for good reason.
Allowing communities to gain access to over-the-counter or mail order devices in turn dramatically lowers the cost. Since, the FDA does not distinguish the difference between these two products relying in function but the intent of the user, it is crucial we keep the government out of the sale of PSAPs.
Sen. Warren wants to hijack the idea of a free market, by implementing more regulations that will stifle competition and raise the cost of devices across the board.
A letter in opposition to the bill signed by free market, liberty minded organizations point to the Bose Corporation as a significant factor for this unnecessary regulatory rampage. Bose produces PSAPs and if they were able to sell these products with the help of FDA regulations it would be possible to sell PSAPs at a higher price point and market them as a novelty. It is no surprise that Bose lobbied in favor of this bill and the corporation is based out of Framingham, Massachusetts the state Sen.Warren represents.
This is pure cronyism, driven by a large company looking to use more government as a way to squash competition and hijack the market through government regulation to increase profit.
This bill would take away the state’s ability to provide less expensive devices to the consumer. Sen. Warren is not putting Americans best interest first, and with this bill would make it more difficult for people to gain access to PSAPs at a lower cost. The proof is in the pudding.