Florida hearing aid buyers suffer from unenforced laws

As a Florida licensed audiologist I have been scrutinized by three state agencies that protect Florida consumers from fraudulent and unlicensed hearing aid sales. While the Hearing Aid Licensure Board, Audiology Licensure Board and the Florida Attorney General have been holding me to the letter of the law, they are unwilling or unable to curb illegal sale of hearing aids by big box stores and health insurance companies in Florida.

Hearing aids are regulated as a medical device by the FDA. An improperly fitted hearing aid could damage your hearing and serious health problems could be missed with an improper or incomplete exam. Florida requires Hearing Aid Specialists and Audiologists to have a license. That license assures the Florida consumer that they are receiving services from a knowledgeable and capable healthcare provider. The ultimate purpose of these licensure laws is to protect the consumer.

Florida consumers are not being protected right now. Large corporations, including health insurance companies, are ignoring Florida law. They are attempting to sell hearing aids like reading glasses and offer to mail hearing aids to their members. They are engaged in unlicensed activities for the distribution of a medical device.

Some people go unscathed by improper exams and hearing aids fitted by mail, but others are hurt. One of my St. Petersburg patients with a severe hearing loss received hearing aids in the mail through her insurance. Her big and well known insurance company told her that someone adjusted her hearing aids before they were mailed to her. After wearing one week she consulted me about discomfort issues in her left ear. She told me the hearing aids seemed too loud and they were squealing in her ears. On that day, the hearing in the left hear was measurably worse that the levels that I measured just weeks before she received her mail order hearing aids. I advised her to immediately stop wearing the aids and insist that her insurance company refer her for treatment to one of their licensed practitioners in Florida. I also advised her to report this incident to the Florida Attorney General. I lost track of her after that visit but I know some of our other patients have complained to the Florida Attorney General about this insurance company.

Licensing was implemented to protect the consumer from injury and fraudulent sales. Beware of how you buying hearing aids in Florida until its politicians find a way to enforce the licensure laws.

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