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OHLA @ 10 Years: Hearing Aid Sales
Communication of contractual rights key to regulatory oversight
Hearing aid fitting and sales
From 2004 to 2006, the Oregon Health Licensing Agency (OHLA) and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids conducted numerous meetings to review existing contractual rights for hearing aid consumers.
 
OHLA and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids partnered with the statewide advocacy group Hearing Loss Association of Oregon as well as the Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and professional associations to build upon previous efforts to provide consumers with greater assurance to satisfactory service, follow-up care and devices that deliver on promised performance.
 
Prior to the two-year long, concentrated regulatory effort that resulted in enhanced protections, consumers could already return an unsatisfactory hearing aid within 30 days and receive a refund.
 
After much research, discussion, collaboration, feedback, and more discussion and collaboration, this regulatory review resulted in the following new requirements:
  • Lower Ceiling on Return Fee:  Due to increasing prices of hearing aids, particularly digital models, the amount a hearing aid specialist can retain if a hearing aid is returned was reduced from 20 percent of the contract amount to 10 percent.

  • Standardized Audiograms:  Not only was a copy of the audiogram required to be given to the consumer, but this hearing test that shows an individual’s degree of hearing loss was also standardized to provide uniform information to consumers.

  • Last Date to Cancel Sale:  To clarify the existing required 30-day return period, the last date to return a hearing aid was required to be added to any hearing aid purchase contract.
After completing the hard work of reviewing and revising requirements, OHLA has communicated those requirements to consumers through numerous public presentations and by individually consulting consumers.
 
At the same time, OHLA has produced new tools and resources for practitioners to assist them with complying with the new requirements and continued to partner with other agencies and associations to communicate the new requirements.

Central Issues in Hearing Aid Fitting and Sales
Donald Plapinger
Donald Plapinger, Ed.D, Hearing Aids Advisory Council Chair
  • Developing a Standardized Training Model:  OHLA and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids are exploring how to establish a more standardized process for hearing aid specialist training, with a two-year associate degree program a potential route for licensure.

  • Consumer’s Right to Copy of Audiogram:  While current regulations oversee only hearing aid purchases, OHLA and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids are reviewing the right of consumers to receive a copy of their audiogram even if they decide not to purchase a hearing aid.

  • Who Is Allowed to Dispense Hearing Aids:  OHLA and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids continue to communicate to consumers their choice in hearing health professionals who may fit and sale hearing aids if licensed by OHLA:  hearing aid specialists, audiologists and otolaryngologists (physicians specializing in the ear, nose and throat, or ENTs).

Regulatory Timeline
1959
The Oregon State Legislature establishes regulation of hearing aid dealers and Advisory Council to the State Board of Health on Hearing Aids.
 
1975
Legislation passes to provide consumers with the right to return hearing aids and to establish a purchase contract.
 
1985
Legislation passes that increases the advisory council to seven members and changes registration to licensure.
 
1993
Legislation clarifies the right of consumers to return hearing aid(s) and reduces consumer out-of-pocket costs by simplifying transactions.
 
1997
Legislation authorizes the Health Division to establish training and experience requirements by administrative rule for licensure as a hearing aid specialist.
 
1999
Legislation legally changes name of practitioner from hearing aid dealer to hearing aid specialist.
 
2006
OHLA and the Advisory Council on Hearing Aids add new requirements for practitioners to enhance existing consumer contractual rights.