The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) announced several notable highlights that occurred in advance of and during its recent Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, March 4-6, including the election of Scott Davis, Siemens Hearing Instruments, as the new Chairman of the Board. HIA also elected Peer Lauritsen, Oticon, to be Vice-Chairman, and reelected Robert Tong, ON Semiconductor, to be Secretary/Treasurer. HIA reports that Todd Murray, GN Hearing Care Corporation, continues on the HIA Executive Committee as Immediate Past Chairman, along with President Carole Rogin.
HIA also re-elected Gordon Walker, Knowles Electronics; Jeff Newnham, Phonak; Jeff Taylor, Sonion; and Jeff Geigel, Widex. According to the HIA announcement, Kevin Kouba, Spectrum Brands, and Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey Hearing Technologies, continue on the Board.
Advocacy for the Hearing Aid Tax Credit
The HIA also announced that, in spite of a snowstorm that shuttered federal agencies on March 5, HIA members teamed with members of the AGBell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AGBell), and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to visit Senators, Representatives and staff, urging them to support the Hearing Aid Tax Credit (HATC). Various groups of HATC advocates, including members from AAA, ADA, ASHA, and IHS, made the rounds in DC as part of the “Hearing on the Hill” effort to urge Congress to support the legislation.
The HATC was introduced by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), as mentioned in a February 27, 2015 article in Hearing Review, among others. Senator Heller opened the HIA Annual Meeting on March 6 and discussed the importance of hearing health and the HATC, as well as his plans to attach the bill to major tax reform legislation. He is a member of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over all such bills.
Updates Regarding FDA Regulation of HAs, PSAPs
As part of HIA’s Annual Meeting on March 6, Srinivas “Nandu” Nandkumar, PhD, chief of the ENT Devices Branch, US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), discussed the status of the FDA’s regulation of hearing aids, including mail-order and internet sales. Nandkumar also discussed the Agency’s progress towards finalizing its Draft PSAP Guidance which clarifies the types of claims that can be made by Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) manufacturers as distinguished from claims that can be made by marketers of hearing aids. Nandkumar noted that hearing aids are FDA-regulated medical devices, while PSAPs are consumer products intended to be used by people with normal hearing in specific situations. The Draft Guidance is anticipated to be finalized in the next 3-4 months, according to the announcement.
Forecast of Regulatory and Legislative Developments
Also during the HIA meeting, Colin Roskey, counsel at Alston+Bird, analyzed possible regulatory and legislative developments that are likely to impact the healthcare market. HIA reports that Roskey focused attention on what might happen if the Supreme Court were to invalidate a critical component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the next few months. He also discussed the decision by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to maintain Medicare coverage of Auditory Osseointegrated Implants (AOIs) as urged by HIA and a coalition of hearing health champions in 2014.
Jan Kihm, A2Z Marketing Research, presented an overview of the MarkeTrak 9 survey results, reports the HIA. She outlined the enhanced, online survey technique, essentially establishing new baselines for trending, and the ways in which MT9 coordinated closely with EuroTrak, also being fielded currently. Kihm highlighted some of the positive trend lines in areas such as adoption rates, age of first purchases, and satisfaction with devices and professionals. Each HIA Member company will receive a complete copy of the report by the end of March.
Alina Urdaneta, Siemens Hearing Instruments, and Fabia D’Arienzo, BHI Communications Consultant, reportedly discussed BHI’s consumer communications efforts which have focused primarily on the direct links between other serious health issues and hearing loss, especially recent studies that indicate that there is a link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Also mentioned in the announcement, Dr Charles Watson and Alex Crowley, National Hearing Test, discussed their efforts towards developing a hearing test that can be conducted via telephone.