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HEARING SPECIALISTS CHALLENGE AARP FINDINGS; PLEDGE COOPERATION TO ENSURE GREATER CONSUMER PROTECTION FOR HEARING-IMPAIRED

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Hearing Society (IHS) challenges the conclusions in "Hearing Aids and the Older Consumer," a study of the hearing aid industry conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).  The study was released today during a hearing by the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
    IHS, which represents more than 3,000 Hearing Instrument Specialists(R) in the United States and Canada, cited the results of an independent evaluation of an earlier draft of the AARP report by Ayres D'Costa, Ph.D., associate professor of Educational Services and Research at The Ohio State University.  D'Costa reports that the AARP study, described by its own author as "anecdotal in nature," employs a flawed research methodology and "blatant experimenter bias" which influenced the report's conclusions.
     In evaluating the AARP report, D'Costa notes, "In highlighting the conclusion that 'hearing aid satisfaction is relatively low,' the report appears to underplay the fact that '82 percent reported they were satisfied with the person who tested and fitted them,' and that 'almost all respondents (85 percent) reported that they had received a warranty for their aid.'"
    AARP's "anecdotal" findings contradict the reality that despite a customer market which seeks to deny or ignore hearing loss, the number of complaints recorded as a percent of sales with state licensing boards, consumer protection agencies and Better Business Bureaus throughout the country is among the lowest in any consumer product category.  Overall, the hearing aid industry consistently has a ratio of complaints to sales of less than 0.05 percent.
    "The AARP report paints an inaccurate picture of consumer satisfaction with hearing aids and their providers.  It contradicts more than three decades of research that has consistently shown a remarkable level of consumer satisfaction," according to Robin L. Holm, executive director of IHS, who appeared before the committee.
    In her testimony before the committee, Holm pledged the society's full cooperation with both the committee and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure an even greater level of consumer protection and confidence for the hearing-impaired.  In addition, she presented the following recommendations to assist Congressional members and the FDA in their re-evaluation of current rule-making procedures with regard to the hearing aid industry:
    -- Revise and restructure health and product disclosures by accentuating constructive and positive information and relevant statements to the hearing impaired;
    -- Delineate standard hearing evaluation test protocols;
    -- Develop uniform patient history form;
    -- Develop recommended components for model state hearing aid dispensing laws;
    -- Evaluate the continued viability of the waiver for otologic "red flags";
    -- Specifically include hearing aid mail order sales; and
    -- Cover comparable medical devices such as Whisper 2000.
    "The hearing-impaired public, our customers and the industry need a constructive and comprehensive regulatory framework," according to Holm. "However, the FDA must propose realistic and achievable regulations which promote easy access to the most qualified health professionals while maintaining confidence in the integrity and efficiency of the hearing aid delivery system."
    In 1977, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) specifically initiated a rule-making procedure which sought to address claims of widespread selling abuses.  After nine years of hearings, comments, study and an independent survey by the nationally recognized firm of Market Facts, Inc., the FTC dropped its rule-making proceeding.  The 1985 Market Facts survey, upon which the FTC relied, demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of hearing aid buyers were satisfied with their purchases.
    According to Holm:  "We are confident that the FDA's new rule-making proceeding will establish, once again, that the hearing aid industry a unique array of qualified and conscientious providers, each of whom has an important role.  Our goal is a balanced and effective regulation which will assure an even greater level of consumer protection and confidence in hearing instruments without sacrificing quality care or a competitive marketplace."
    The International Hearing Society represents more than 3,000 Hearing Instrument Specialists who have served the public in rural areas, small towns and major metropolitan centers for more than 40 years.  Hearing Instrument Specialists and their employees dispense more than 50 percent of all hearing aids sold in the United States.
    -0-             09/15/93
    CONTACT:  Steve Kramer, 202-835-8851, or Tom Pilla, 202-835-8864, both for the International Hearing Society CO:  INTERNATIONAL HEARING SOCIETY; AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF
                        RETIRED PERSONS


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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 15, 1993
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