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$8 Hearing Aid Breaks FL Law

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It’s possible to buy a perfectly good hearing aid through the Internet for $7.92, it turns out. Clearwater attorney Denis DeVlaming discovered that when his mother lost her previous device, one of a pair that had cost thousands of dollars. But it also turns out that there’s an old state law that makes such a sale illegal, the Tampa Bay Timesreports (paywall alert).

The high costs associated with these devices are due to the increasing complexity of hearing aid technology, which can now function to rewire the brain, according to Pam Mason, director of audiology practices for American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  In response, cheaper devices have been developed and distributed through online sources such as eBay, Amazon and Walmart at cheaper prices.

The FDA has made it possible for companies to bypass the federal law and sell hearing aids without professional testing and fitting by requiring consumers to sign a waiver before making a purchase.  However, this exemption is not offered in the Florida law.  

With half of Americans suffering some hearing loss  by age 75, the market for hearing aids is huge. Some shoppers will want the custom-fitted high-tech hearing aids that cost thousands of dollars and require a professional audiologist’s services.

But for those who are fine with the down-scale model,  deVlaming wonders, should it really be against the law to buy them?

"For the life of me,'' he told the Times, "I don't understand why people that could use the $7.92 device are deprived of at least trying it.''

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.