With the 2021 Florida legislative session wrapping up this week, it is a good time to discuss the progress made towards modernizing the Sunshine State’s hearing aid regulations. The last 4 months of political wrangling have shed light on outdated rules that are in dire need of modernization. Underneath the noise about the proposed changes, it is important to recognize a growing understanding by all parties that regulations must modernize to improve access to safe, affordable hearing health care.
We started this process because the hearing aid law in Florida is over 25 years old. As HIA President Kate Carr stated, “the Florida statute for testing requirements is archaic and out of date.” Ms Carr and I may have taken different positions on the proposed legislation, but we clearly agree that the time has come for meaningful change. We hoped that change would happen this year, but like nearly all legislation, it often takes more than one year to come to a consensus.
As a reminder, the only change that the final form of proposed legislation would have made was to simply remove the prohibition of the distribution of hearing aids through the mail for everyone 21 years of age and older. That is the compromise at which we had hoped to arrive; nothing more and nothing less. As I said back in March, we wanted to work with all parties to get to common ground. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, even this slight change—one which would bring Florida in line with the rest of the country and allow under-served populations more options in getting quality care—was a step too far for some to accept.
The key lesson from this is that some in the industry are nervous about change. As someone who has worked in this space for decades, I understand. Yet, I also understand that while we delay and fail to modernize antiquated and out-of-touch laws, approximately 75-85% of people with treatable hearing loss continue to go without care. As a recently released report by the Academy of Doctors of Audiology stated:
“New technologies and new applications of existing technologies have aligned with new markets. Quality care cannot be sustained by the execution of a one-size-fits-all set of processes, and excellence will not be defined merely by the presence of a physical location. Consumer demand for alternative hearing healthcare models is accelerating.“
I have heard from many colleagues urging us to keep driving this issue forward to democratize access to safe, high-quality, affordable care. So that is what we will do, and I encourage all the groups in the industry to work together to make these needed improvements. I could not be more proud of the progress we’ve made and the partners we now have around the table. We will continue to work with all of you to support the industry’s modernization.
— Paul Martin