Pending Sunset Generates Desperate Plea
President Steve Shulman goes on to claim that “FSHHP is the largest Hearing Aid Society in the country and essentially sets the ideal standards for Hearing Healthcare nationally”.
Aside from some potential factual issues some might have with these bold assertions, President Shulman and the FSHHP omit some very salient, facts and absolutely avoids discussing, much less debating the larger issues and questions facing our Profession and his organization.
Let’s start with his assertion that “Hearing aid sales are down - it is a difficult and uncertain time.”
Well, while agreeing that it these are uncertain times and difficult for lots of folks, sales aren’t necessarily down for everyone.
However, the only possible path forward, according to the FSHHP is the one we are on, that of continuing down the medical dispensing model, which requires ever more procedures and protocols to be performed by ever more highly educated, trained and of course licensed professionals.
These fine folks cannot possibly conceive of a connection between their slumping sales and their ever tightening regulations and rules.
The entire idea that maybe their sales and the entire industry might benefit from less, rather than more regulation, is not only not discussed, even whispering so will label one a heretic. Even their “Code of Ethics” requires not just adherence to current statutes as written, but a pledge of allegiance to them as well.
No, this organization, which does indeed stack and control the Board of Hearing Aid Specialists, cannot imagine going down anything but the continued regulatory road, because that is not only all they have ever known, but they all have vested financial interests in keeping the Licensed Gates firmly between them and the consumers who might even consider going around them.
While constantly proclaiming the goal of protecting the consumer, the laws as now written, are much more about limiting points of purchase and protecting licensee profits than they are about protecting any consumer.
Setting best practice standards, establishing minimum practice standards, establishing myriad rules, higher entry levels and ever more intrusive training standards, and mandating their application, while removing all consumer choice in the matter is where we are. We’ve gotten here after over thirty years of chasing a medical model of dispensing that no one dares question.
The results and answer is in President Shulman’s opening, “Hearing aid sales are down - it is a difficult and uncertain time”
What he fails to mention is that we are facing market, demographic and equipment evolutions that may very well cause the entire profession to go the way of the buggy whip.
No, Steve and colleagues can simply conceive of no world, excepting one that requires adherence to a set of delivery standards that eighty percent of the people who could benefit from amplification want nothing to do with, as it is now.
With the largest health insurance company in the country announcing last month that they had purchased their own hearing aid company and were going to begin selling them over the Internet to anyone who wants, Steve and colleagues answer is more of the same.
With RIC style hearing aids, labeled as Personal Sound Amplifiers, showing up on end caps in drug stores across the state, FSHHP assure us that if we only rally around their lobbyists, that all will be well.
God forbid, we even consider discussing the idea that the system we’ve created, and those Boards and Licenses we so desperately seek to protect, might be contributing to the low sales that Steve bemoans?
Do we really need all these regulations to protect the public?
Or, are these regulations needed only to protect the profits of current licensees, and protect them from having to compete for consumers’ attention and business rather than continuing to compel it via a gatekeeper system?
Steve, did you ever stop to consider that FSHHP has such a small percentage of actual licensees as members, because you no longer actually represent the interests of the majority, but rather the minority?
Or, that being owned and operated over two generations, by and for your lobbyists, who must continuously be paid, for their vigilance in protecting “the interests of our profession”, might possibly have other “interests” of their own as well?
Or, that perhaps there might ever be any conflicts between these other “interests” and what's best for our profession?
“Hearing Aid Sales are down.” Support us for more of the same, is the FSHHP message.
Yet, repeating the same actions and expecting different results, is the very definition of insanity.
Steve buddy, that sound you hear in the background, is the sound of those precious gates cracking.
Cling to the way things have always been at your own risk.
But know that every other indicator, equipment and consumer demographic and evolution evident, are all arguing for more consumer control and choice, even in their own medical care.
Time to let the consumers choose the level of care and professional involvement that they, not we deem appropriate.
Time to earn those customers and their business, rather than compelling, through regulations removing any choice that they might have, as to their own treatment and product options.
Time to understand that the era of ever tighter, stricter regulations in pursuit of always higher medical practice models, is an idea whose time has come and gone.
Today's ear level communications gear goes far beyond correcting for a hearing loss, connecting it's users to a world inhabited by all manner of electronic devices, all communicating with each other.
As the ear level electronic devices that we've known as hearing aids, begin connecting us to devices and consumers we would have never seen before, is it wise, as a profession, to continue to command them to do it all our way?
Are we really so bold, as to continue to declare that we must treat every customer to the exact same level of professional care, services and protocols, regardless of their wishes or personal needs simply, because we and our professional Boards, are the ones with all of the education in these matters, so we always know what's best for them?
The era of the consumer fit and programed hearing devices is upon us. Call them what ever you want. But, they are becoming more and more available through more and more locations with both physical, brick and mortar presences, and are always just a few clicks away, on the world wide web.
We can react to these consumer, equipment and marketing evolutions with a rallying around the current medical dispensing model, even as more and more consumers everywhere reject it.