A Hearing Aid Oligopoly Is Trying to Strangle Cheap Over-the-Counter Competitors


Well no-one in their right mind would think this billion dollar industry was gonna roll over and play dead, also another way these guys are doing this, is buying out established companies plus any start ups that happen to get in the way, we may even see a bit of cloak and dagger in the boardroom by the brotherhood!

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Great article. I hope the big 5 lose.

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I actually agree that those with moderate or greater hearing loss should see an audiologist for a properly prescribed and verified fitting. The consequences of unsafe levels of output resulting in further hearing loss, or auditory deprivation due to under-fitting can be dire in terms of life outcomes and the health of the individual. For those with greater degrees of hearing loss, poorly fitted devices can lead to poor environmental awareness and an increased risk of falls. Hearing aids cannot kill you, but poorly treated hearing loss has a significant impact on the individual and those around them.

In saying this, there is room for hearing aid manufacturers to offer products at significantly lower prices than they do. The cost of an audiology service should be predominately the services of the clinician. Not the device cost. So much time and money is wasted giving away free hearing care. Clinicians would be fine charging less for devices if they were getting paid for all of the work that they do. However when healthcare and retail mix you find yourself having to compete with manufacturer-owned clinics that put sales as the first priority and are happy to devalue professional services by offering them at reduced cost or no charge.

Audiologists aren’t salespeople. They’re trained healthcare professionals. You don’t expect free care from a dentist and you probably wouldn’t go to one that was offering it. You don’t expect free care from your plumber. It is wrong that our services are so undervalued and the industry is to blame for this.


Interesting article @d_Wooluf thank you for the link…. As @tenkan rightly pointed out, the big 5 were never going to rollover on this legislation, as moderate loss is probably their sweet spot? Anyhow, it would appear the legislators have the big 5’s measure, and they will hopefully keep this legislation intact. Should be very interesting to see how this reflects price, once this eventually comes to fruition. Cheers Kev :wink:

I was thinking that it’s a bit strange in a way that the manufacturers would see fit to comment at all. The audiologists are theoretically the repository of knowledge on how best to treat hearing loss. The big 6 just make the tools for them. Again, theoretically.

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God help me when I take the word of politicians. What tribe did Elizabeth Warren belong to? I forget.


The Democrat Tribe I hope you mean.

Not getting into a debate about politicians. Been voting for 50 years. Not impressed with either side of the aisle overall

I’m shocked to learn that an industry would lobby Congress to insulate them from competition. Shocked!

I suspect the OTC hearing device industry is likely becoming more consolidated, better funded, and generally able to provide more and better political contributions than the Big Six. I think they’ll probably be okay.

One way or another, I’m confident we’ll get the best government regulation money can buy.

Many hearing aid purchasers aren’t happy with the hearing aid they have I can’t see how over the counter is gonna be any better but I can see how it’ll be a lot worse. It’s obvious from Bose folding and leaving the hearing aid industry that it takes a lot more money and knowledge than many think.

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I think here is the issue of DIY, so OTC will allow people to program their HAs to how they like things to sound, so to get a better chance of accepting HAs and actually using them!
The manufacturers I believe accept that OTC are a given, what their trying to do is limit the output and features to make them “dumb” compared to their respective models (lower, basic models) but they’re already involved in getting partnership’s in established companies, so know it’s just a matter of time before the market is flooded with “hearables”

I just don’t see it happening. Most can easily self program right now and don’t. I get that many don’t need high end aids and more probably can’t afford them, but I dont see how users will be happy with the results. They say some 30%+ aids sit unused in a drawer and those are high dollar aids. I see more of a mix as you described, like Phonak offering the KS10 at one quarter of the price. Or Resound offering the Jabra and Lively brands of aids at less than half. But I don’t see average ( being uneducated on hearing devices) users buying aids at CVS or Walmart and being pleased with their purchase.

True, but you have to get hold of the software and hardware, plus do a bit of research before doing so, although it’s easy enough it’s not going to be as straight forward as an OTC hearable, which will only require you to load your audiogram (or take a inbuilt hearing test) into an App, and then make changes directly with a built-in equaliser (which is exactly what Bose did)

It’s does seem that those with mild to moderate losses aren’t as fussy when it comes to how this is done.

Yep it’s pretty bad, but maybe those 30% will buy OTC and be a lot happier?

I’m hoping that this actually won’t happen, I’d like to see more of a retail point like Bose did
(with a bit more effort put into marketing them!) as in, the manufacturer’s website and stores selling them instead of those types of stores.

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I don’t know why anyone would be shocked. Every business wants to be a monopoly.

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Doesn’t mean we should let them.

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I never said we should let them. I said we shouldn’t be surprised when they try. Since they always try

This is an interesting topic to me. As usual, plenty of opinions. It is also a complicated issue. While a simple, moderate loss can probably be compensated easily by using one of the OTC aids, there are quite a lot of cases where that isn’t the case. Add to that the fact that most of the elderly have a significant hearing loss, often untreated. Not everyone is either willing, or capable of self fitting. OTC aids will be successful because they fill a need, but they won’t address the majority of cases where people need a professional fitting. Hearing care is too expensive, but then so is any medical care. And, that problem isn’t going away any time soon. The big 6 want to maintain their near monopoly, and profit margins, of course they do. And, like other moneyed interests, they spend their dollars where it will do the most good, lobbying Congress. There ain’t no simple solution to this folks. I have some of the latest, most advanced aids available, and rarely wear them. Because they don’t really help. No wonder so many aids spend their lives in drawers.

John you own a pair of the most expensive aids out there and rarely wear them because they don’t work. What do you mean by they don’t work.

In the USA clinicians aren’t required to follow best practices. You’ll find satisfaction rates much higher in countries like Australia where clinicians are required to show proper match to real-ear measurement targets in their claims paperwork for government funding.

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