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Will Congress Liberate Hearing Aids

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I have always believed that the key to fixing the many problems with our health care system is the separation of medicine and state. Obviously, this means opposing ObamaCare and similar programs. However, it also involves supporting efforts to repeal federal regulations that interfere with the practice of medicine or raise the costs of obtaining medical treatment or drugs. 

 Congress will soon have the opportunity to take a step toward separating medicine and state by supporting a provision reauthorizing the FDA user fee program. This provision would allow certain hearing aids to be sold over-the-counter.

 Currently, federal law mandates that individuals receive permission from a government-licensed dispenser before obtaining a hearing aid. This mandate denies relief to many Americans with impaired hearing. At a time when so many are struggling with increased medical costs caused by ObamaCare, and the Republican Congress’s failure to repeal and replace it, it is imperative Congress do everything possible to remove regulations that artificially increase costs. 

 As a physician, I would likely recommend that individuals consult a doctor before purchasing a hearing device. But I would no more advocate the government force individuals to see a doctor before purchasing a hearing aid than I would advocate the government force Americans to get regular exercise, eat their vegetables, or brush their teeth after every meal.  I would certainly never advocate the government force those Americans who cannot afford a hearing aid simply live with impaired hearing instead of seeking out a low-cost alternative.

 The mentality behind the hearing aid mandate is the same “government knows best” mentality behind most federal health care rules and regulations that limit our personal choices. The most well-known of these is ObamaCare's mandate that sixty-year old single men purchase a health insurance plan with maternity coverage. is the case with many nanny state regulations, federal hearing aid mandates are also backed by cronies. The cronies behind this regulation are the six hearing aid manufacturers that control 98% of the world market in hearing aids. These cronies benefit from FDA regulations because they raise prices and keep smaller businesses from entering the marketplace. 

 Unlike their smaller competitors and potential competitors, large corporations can easily absorb the additional costs imposed by government mandates which are inevitably passed along to the end user.

 Unfortunately, this provision is backed by many hearing health professional groups and organizations that represent hearing aid dispensers, which wish to use government power to limit competition. This truly is a short-sighted view, as it accepts government interference and control of the delivery of health care.

 By trying to limit the freedom of patients to choose the type of treatment they feel best meets their needs, these organizations put hearing health care professionals at odds with their patients and violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Hippocratic Oath.

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