Dan Taylor spent nearly 30 years as a licensed hearing aid specialist, working from his quaint storefront office in downtown Melbourne, Florida. Dan also works with Mission Hearing a nonprofit that helps reduce the cost of hearing aids for those in need. During all those years, he has never been disciplined or fined by the Florida Board of Hearing Aid Specialists due to a consumer complaint. In 2017, he decided not to renew his hearing aid license, because the sales procedures required by the licensing are unnecessary due to newer hearing aid models and existing FDA regulation. He now faces the threat of punishment and forced retirement from the profession.
Hearing loss affects about 30 million or more Americans. Its effects are debilitating: hearing is vital to most communication, and not being able to hear cuts victims off from human contact. However, only 20% of those who could benefit seek them out. One reason for this, according to the FDA, is high costs and unnecessary regulation in the hearing aid market.1
Florida’s licensing scheme is a good example. The state mandates that “Hearing Aid Specialists” get a license that requires them to perform antiquated hearing exams that may have been useful long ago but are not necessary for newer hearing aids. And the barriers to get a license are huge: annual fees, classroom training, and 480 hours of supervised work, and requirements to perform outdated procedures for fitting and testing. These regulations benefit big providers, such as large chains of hearing aid stores, to the detriment of mom and pop shops.
But changing technology has made these regulations obsolete. Many modern hearing aids cost less than older models and can be quickly configured using a computer or smartphone, which doesn’t require the burdensome procedures mandated by Florida’s licensing scheme.
Dan’s practice is based on these next-generation hearing aids. So he gave up his license on the grounds Florida’s rules are unnecessary and that federal law preempts the state’s licensing regulations. And he’s right— federal regulations establishing “conditions of sale” for hearing aids expressly preempt state rules that tack on additional or different conditions of sale.
Nonetheless, he soon received a cease and desist letter and a fine, which he paid. And though Mr. Taylor was preparing for semi-retirement, he wanted to continue his life’s work helping people hear better, including his charitable work. So he teamed up with PLF to fight Florida’s rules.