An ethics crisis in our field

In the world of hearing healthcare, as in all professions, there are standards we all must maintain. Practices that are licensed to dispense hearing instruments have strict laws and codes of ethics designed to ensure patients are dealt with in a professional and fair manner. These guidelines involve the handling of protected health information (the HIPAA law), scope of practice, diagnostic testing, reporting of test data, selection, fitting and pricing of hearing aids and follow-up care. We have made these responsibilities a source of pride in our office. Other reputable practices adhere to these guidelines as well. It is a grave disappointment any time a dispensing office engages in behavior that discredits the rest of us and disserves the community.

A longstanding regional hearing center that has long been respected and considered a pillar of the community has recently been engaged in practices that undermine much of what the audiology community has been building over many years. Patients are being offered “discounted” hearing aids, for which all services are billed separately (out of pocket from the patient) at every appointment, such as office visits, hearing aid reprogramming and hearing aid cleaning. These are services that would be included in the cost of the instruments. Fees are being charged for repairs of hearing aids that are under warranty. For a typical hearing aid lifespan with regular follow-up care, these fees will outpace any savings at the outset. Additionally, certain major hearing aid manufacturers have considered their inclusion on their website to be deceptive, as this particular practice has never purchased any of their products. The ethical questions that have been raised are deeply disturbing and disappointing, coming from what had been a highly-respected audiology practice for 35-plus years. Reputations in this field are fragile, whether a founder or a family member in the practice is responsible. There are enough disreputable hearing aid centers in the area; participating in unethical behavior does not help the cause of those of us who strive to uphold our proud profession.

At Clear Choice Hearing and Balance we will always practice within the full scope of audiology and hearing instrument dispensing, and we will fight to maintain the standards that have elevated audiology to its current place within the healthcare continuum. The patients’ needs are our highest priority, and our place within the greater medical community continues to allow us to grow. Choose wisely when considering hearing healthcare options.