The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) released a statement yesterday expressing concerns about the recent formation of earVenture LLC, a hearing aid company that is the joint venture of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and IntriCon Corp. earVenture plans to introduce hearing aids in the “essential” product category at extremely low wholesale prices. HIA says it is concerned about the propriety of a major professional organization aligning itself with a single hearing instrument manufacturer in an extremely competitive market, and says this action raises questions related to potential conflicts of interest for the Academy.
HIA’s statement reads:
The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) has expressed concern about the recently-announced joint venture between the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and hearing aid manufacturer IntriCon Corporation. The program, earVenture LLC, would sell hearing aids to Audiologists with special pricing for ADA members, virtually all of whom are existing customers of the members of HIA, including IntriCon. HIA members produce the vast majority of hearing aids sold in the US on an annual basis.
HIA believes that earVenture may not align with ADA’s stated mission of advancing “professional autonomy and sound business practices,” as profit motives inherent in product sales call into question potential conflicts of interest. Further, HIA thinks the decision by ADA to become a commercial actor in the marketplace negatively impacts that organization’s objectivity and neutrality. Additionally, HIA questions the need for an exclusive relationship with only one member manufacturer of HIA to sell products that are already commercially available from virtually every hearing aid manufacturer at similar price points.
HIA President Carole Rogin observed that “HIA and its members have been staunch supporters of ADA since its inception and were, indeed, instrumental in supporting its creation, as well as its meetings and programs continuously over the years. While each HIA member will be assessing the impact of this venture on its company and valued customers, HIA will be undertaking a comprehensive review of its longstanding partnership with ADA in furthering the private practice of audiology with respect to a potential conflict of interest posed by this initiative.”
As reported Monday by The Hearing Review, the ultimate goal of earVenture, according to ADA, is to disrupt the hearing aid market in a manner that will allow all hearing care professionals to succeed. The two hearing aids being launched by the new company, the reVel thin-tube (312) and faVor (10A) BTE hearing aids, are reportedly designed as a low-cost high-quality answer to the PSAPs (personal sound amplification products), direct to consumer, and mass retail devices that are currently challenging the practices of private practice audiologists.
In the previous interview, ADA Executive Director Stephanie Czuhajewski responded to a Hearing Review question that specifically addressed the issue of profits and competition with many of ADA’s corporate supporters. “Maximizing profit is not the objective of earVenture,” said Czuhajewski. “In fact, if the sole result of this start-up is to disrupt the market and other competitors enter this space, then we’ve achieved our objectives.” She said ADA and IntriCon are splitting the profits 50/50, with the ADA’s portion being used to support the Academy’s advocacy initiatives that advance best practices and the audiology profession.
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