June 8, 2018

Why does Florida require people to use outdated hearing aid technology?

By Anastasia P. Boden Attorney

Technology has made leaps and bounds since the original hearing aid—aka the ear trumpet—came onto the market.  Nowadays, state-of-the-art hearing aids are sophisticated enough to allow users to fit and tune the devices themselves using iPhones, tablets, or home computers.  In theory, hearing aids should more accessible than ever; one can even buy a hearing aid off of the shelf at Costco.  But not so in Florida.  In that state, antiquated regulations thwart the industry’s recent technological innovations, because a person must not only get a license before selling a hearing aid, they must also use outdated testing and fitting procedures from the 1980s before completing the sale.

That not only goes against common sense, it goes against recent federal efforts to improve access to hearing help.  Recognizing that unnecessary regulations drive up the cost of purchasing a hearing aid, the FDA has implemented specific rules regarding the sale of hearing aids, and it explicitly preempts states that exceed those rules.

Nevertheless, Florida imposes layers of red tape on people who wish to sell hearing aids for a living.  The state requires all sellers to undergo years of training and experience, to obtain a license, and to abide by certain “minimum procedures.”  Those procedures include testing and fitting using antiquated and—according to the FDA—unnecessary methods.  The state also outright bans mail order sales of hearing aids, meaning purchasing a hearing aid online from Costco or Amazon makes you complicit in a crime.  In fact, anyone who sells a hearing aid without engaging in the mandatory procedures is guilty of committing a felony!

Today, we filed this motion  asking the court to prevent the state from enforcing the law against our client, Dan Taylor, during the lawsuit—and to permit him to continue earning a living selling hearing aids using new technology. When states thwart innovation, they stifle entrepreneurship and harm consumers. In this case, they also act contrary to federal law.

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