Staff Standpoint | November 2015 Hearing Review

KarlAbout 75 years ago, on November, 11, 1940, the Armistice Day Blizzard hit the Midwest. It was a storm that my parent’s generation describes with reverence and awe—often using it as “Case Exhibit #1” for dressing warmly and storing provisions against potentially lethal weather. The morning of the 11th featured sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, but within 8 hours, temperatures in parts of Minnesota dropped by nearly 50 degrees, accompanied by blinding snow and 6-foot drifts. Everywhere, people were stunned and stranded. Years later, William Hull wrote a regional best-seller called All Hell Broke Loose, recounting the Armistice Day Blizzard.

The hearing industry recently experienced its own blizzard of unexpected events, many of which have stunned industry observers (including myself). In short, all hell broke loose:

  • HLAA objects to CDC’s disabilities study. In last month’s Staff Standpoint, I wrote about the battle being waged over the omission of hearing loss from a July 31 CDC study that looks at the prevalence of disabilities in the United States. This isn’t trivial. The CDC completes 400,000 adult interviews a year, the largest continuously conducted health survey system in the world. It is widely relied upon for making healthcare and legislative decisions, and also serves as a model for other countries. As this edition of HR was going to press, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) was working with CDC to change its survey instrument. For details: http://goo.gl/kWFIpP
  • Accounting fraud at Beltone. On August 13, The Hearing Review reported on GN’s Q2 Interim Report and the discovery that Beltone’s VP of Finance had allegedly committed accounting fraud from 2012-2014. As a result, the company took a one-time loss of $22.3 million in the second quarter. Additionally, Beltone President Todd Murray, a well-respected and prominent leader in the hearing industry, announced his resignation. For details, visit: http://goo.gl/kKJKtv
  • High-profile firings at Starkey. On September 9, four executives at Starkey Hearing Technologies were fired, including President Jerry Ruzicka—also a respected industry leader who had headed the company since 1998. Former Senior VP of Operations Keith Guggenberger has filed a lawsuit against Starkey. For details see p 7, and for news about the lawsuit, visit: http://goo.gl/wBsZbG
  • ADA and IntriCon launch earVenture hearing aids. On September 14, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and IntriCon announced their partnership in earVenture LLC, a new company that produces high-quality low-priced hearing aids designed to allow dispensing professionals to compete better with Big Box retail, PSAPs, and other direct-to-consumer devices. The Hearing Industries Assn (HIA) issued a press statement expressing concerns about the propriety of earVenture; ADA responded with a statement of its own, expressing concerns about HIA’s concerns. See p 12 for details, and read the HIA and ADA press statements at: http://goo.gl/FMzXp5
  • GN and WDH’s patent war. Patent disputes are commonplace in any high-tech industry, including hearing healthcare. But a patent lawsuit between GN and William Demant Holding has generated a lot of press attention, industry hand-wringing, and some flashes of temper from the two usually stoic companies. For a summary, see Holly Hosford-Dunn’s BlogPage column on page 14, and click on the references in the article’s online version at HearingReview.com.
  • Final IOM Meeting. On September 10, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held its third of three public workshops addressing the most important and controversial topics related to affordability and access to hearing aids, assistive devices, and tinnitus treatment. A Consensus Report is due in May 2016. What their recommendations will be is anyone’s guess. For details, visit: http://goo.gl/utHUCn
  • PCAST. On September 19, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a group that directly advises the President, held “PCAST Technology to Help People as They Age: Hearing Technologies.” See p 9, or watch the 28-minute webcast at: http://goo.gl/9RC53a

My only advice is the same that I offer to my children every morning: “Dress warm. You never know what might happen.”