Corporate CEOs and professional organization leaders in the hearing care industry recently convened at the annual meeting of the Hearing Industries Association (HIA), Washington. HIA Chairman Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey, told attendees that the group’s long-term efforts in supporting the Hearing Aid Tax Credit have laid the groundwork for HIA and its hearing health allies to engage Congress in opposing a proposed tax on medical devices, including hearing aids. “The Representatives and Senators who champion the Hearing Aid Tax Credit are natural and eager supporters of efforts to insure that hearing aids are not taxed as part of a health care reform proposal that does little or nothing to expand access to hearing aids,” he said.
Mark Rayder, senior policy advisor, Alston + Bird, Washington, DC, led off the major presentations with a report on health care reform. Taking his audience through the process to date, Rayder said that hearing loss as a health care issue is now an established position, though the ways, if any, in which it will be addressed in health care reform are unknown. Jeffrey Gibbs, principal at the FDA law firm of Hyman, Phelps, & McNamara and special FDA counsel to HIA, discussed medical device issues ranging from manufacturer and health care provider ethics at state and federal levels to the recently published Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance on testimonials, endorsements, and other claims used in marketing activities and materials.
Lucille Beck, PhD, chief of the VA’s Audiology and Speech Pathology Program, provided an update on the VA’s expansion of hearing aid delivery, and introduced the industry to an initiative by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to generate research into hearing aid accessibility and affordability. She presented the first three requests for proposals emerging from the initiative, and urged industry members to engage in the effort. The annual presentation of Better Hearing Institute (BHI) initiatives was outlined by BHI President Gordon Walker, Knowles Electronics, and BHI Executive Director Sergei Kochkin, PhD.
Biennial elections were held at the meeting. Sonic Innovations Chairman and CEO Sam Westover, who was elected to a 2-year term as HIA chairman, said it is imperative to continue to push hearing health as a national agenda item.
Westover has been associated with the hearing aid industry since 2002 as a director, then as chairman and CEO of Sonic. He has worked in the health care industry for most of his career, having been president and CEO of CIGNA Dental and President of CIGNA HealthCare’s Small Business Segment, as well as the founding CFO of WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the US. Westover also served as special assistant to the Governor of Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
Newly elected officers on the executive committee are: HIA Vice Chair Todd Murray, GN Hearing Care Corporation and Secretary/Treasurer Robert Tong, ON Semiconductor; Immediate Past Chair Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey, and HIA Executive Director Carole Rogin. Seven seats on the HIA Board were filled by the election of: Todd Murray, GN Hearing Care Corp; Gordon Walker, Knowles Electronics; Mike Orscheln, Phonak; Jeff Taylor, Sonion; Randy Raymond, Rayovac; Brian Kinnerk, Siemens Hearing Instruments, and Jerry Ruzicka, Starkey.
HIA is the national trade association of manufacturers of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, component parts, and power sources for amplification devices.