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Tags: elizabeth warren | hearing aid | failure | bose | snake oil

Sen. Warren's Hearing Aid Gambit Adds to Her History of Failure

elizabeth warren in glasses gestures
(Tom Williams/Pool/ AFP via Getty Images)

Jared Whitley By Wednesday, 18 May 2022 10:51 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

It must be hard to be Elizabeth Warren, with her long history of failure. She tried to be an American Indian, and she failed. She tried to become president, and she failed. She tried — with the rest of the Democrat-Communist Party to Build Back Better — and she failed.

Now she's tried to be a crony capitalist, and failed at that too.

That's how things look in the fallout of Bose laying off 2,000 employees from its Massachusetts headquarters, as The Boston Globe recently reported. More famous for home audio systems and headphones, Bose made an effort in recent years to pioneer retail hearing aids — but unsuccessfully.

Bose's contraction isn't for lack of effort on Warren's part.

In 2017, she's had a win with the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act; its goal was to open the door for ordinary retail stores to sell hearing aids direct to the consumer. This allowed people to bypass trained healthcare professionals and take control of their hearing! so to speak.

Much like the herbal supplement industry before them, OTC hearing aid companies flooded into the market to take advantage of the unregulated space. About 44 million Americans have some kind of hearing loss, frequently because of advancing age, and many of them want better access to necessary medical equipment.

In theory, circumventing an onerous bureaucracy to get more and cheaper options is a good thing. But not if it ends up doing more harm than good.

Bose SoundControl was the first self-fitting hearing aid designed to treat mild-to-moderate hearing losses approved by the FDA. As the company billed it, the device allowed users to fit it themselves, program it, and ultimately obtain "clinically proven, audiologist-quality results — without a doctor visit, hearing test, or prescription."

Warren and her allies insisted that moving to an OTC model will boost innovation, savings, and patient access, which is normally the kind of strategy conservatives are onboard with.

Then the problems cropped up.

Without appropriate FDA guardrails, problems ran rampant, hurting those who needed help. Companies that sold OTC hearing aids ran into problems with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. Hearing industry professionals have roundly denounced OTCs as dangerous.

As terms like "snake oil" were thrown around, attorneys general in state after state (after state after state) have brought cases against OTC hearing aid companies and won.

Warren tried to perform a little regulatory sleight of hand on behalf of the industry recently, asking the Biden administration to release an executive order last fall directing the FDA to speed up the process for regulating OTC hearing devices. The goal seemed to be to give the industry the illusion of validation from the federal government, without any substantive guardrails.

The proposed FDA guidelines would have allowed an OTC hearing aid to amplify sounds of up to 120 decibels (dB) without a gain limit. That's somewhere between a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier and Metallica in 1991, according to Purdue University.

Healthcare costs are out of control and everyone wants cheaper solutions. The innovation found only in the private sector is probably going to come up with better solutions than Washington can, but the federal government does have an appropriate role to play.

If there had been better guidelines, these 2,000 Bay Staters working for Bose might not have lost their jobs.

Snake oil salesmen have long been a fixture of the American West, much like Warren's Indian "ancestry." As a matter of historical curiosity, the judicial ruling that condemned snake oil used as medicine was in Rhode Island — involving snake oil manufactured across the border in Massachusetts!

So, Warren's history of failure here seems to be a long tradition.

Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. Read Jared Whitley's reports — More Here.

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It must be hard to be Elizabeth Warren, with her long history of failure.
elizabeth warren, hearing aid, failure, bose, snake oil
Wednesday, 18 May 2022 10:51 AM
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