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Affordable hearing aids extant?

I am a bit confused by the discussion (including the article about
"Killion's fight" and Magilen's erudite paper) about "affordable hearing
aids." Introduced a few years ago, the Songbird line seems exactly what
Killion wants. These throw-away aids last about 90 days, are a
one-size-fits-all amplification, and cost about $60. The company's stated
policy is that "The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that you have
a medical evaluation prior to purchasing or using any hearing aid. Songbird
Hearing, Inc., recommends that you have your hearing checked annually."
However, these apparently do not need to be dispensed by a licensed
practitioner (though some/many audiologists do sell them).

One of the original pitches for this product was that audiologists could
provide an low-cost "entry" to aids to clients who balk at the substantial
monetary investment in their first set of aids. This low-cost device would
presumably offer some modicum of improvement, and would potentially lead the
clients into wanting a better (full)  fitting at a higher cost. The analogy
to the drugstore reading glasses was made clear; OTC quality was adequate to
start with a low entry cost, and would generate demand for better quality
leading to professional services. Indeed, Magilen's argument and experience
seems to support this marketing rationale.

Clearly the Songbird products have many limitations, and the idea of people
"treating themselves" raises many professional's eyebrows (in hearing and
nearly all medically-related fields). However, it still seems to me that at
least one company has fulfilled Killion's desire, while at least nominally
following some of Magilen's suggestions for OTC informational packets. I am
confused why Killion and his company cannot follow suit within the existing
set of regulations.

For the record, I have no affiliation with any of the companies or
participants. I admit to being slightly more sympathetic toward Magilen's
desire for tighter regulation, though I think offering a low-cost entry
device makes a great deal of sense.


: Peter Marvit, PhD                          <pmarvit@som.umaryland.edu> :
: Dept. Anatomy and Neurobiology    University of Maryland Medical School:
: 685 W. Baltimore Street, HSF 222                   Baltimore, MD 21201 :
: phone 410-706-1272                                    fax 410-706-2512 :