Consumers lose under Florida’s tone deaf licensing for hearing aid sales

Can a state require buyers of hearing aids to undergo time consuming and unnecessary tests — even testing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said provides no meaningful benefit — before being sold a hearing aid? That is the question asked by hearing care entrepreneur Dan Taylor in a federal constitutional lawsuit that was heard in an Orlando, Florida, courtroom this week.

Working from a small shop in downtown Melbourne, Taylor has sold hearing aids for 30 years. But Florida says no one but licensed “hearing aid specialists” can sell a hearing aid, and the licensed hearing aid sellers are required by law to perform antiquated hearing exams — tests that may have been state-of-the-art in the 1970s when the law was passed, but are, in many cases, unnecessary today.

Modern hearing aids contain sophisticated software that allows almost anyone to effectively select the right hearing aid, and at lower cost, using common tools such as personal computers and smartphones.

Yet, Taylor and all hearing aid sellers face ruinous fines, or even jail time, if they don’t perform the unneeded tests. In short, Florida’s restrictions on hearing aid sellers and sales don’t benefit the public; they only stifle efficient or innovative hearing care and make it more difficult for consumers to access lower-cost services that can benefit them.

In protest, Taylor gave up his Florida Hearing Aid Specialists license last year and prepared to shutter his business. Then he got mad and filed a lawsuit in federal court in Florida, challenging the state’s burdensome regulations.

He is not seeking money; just a declaration that the state’s rules contradict federal regulations governing the sale of hearing aids and violate his right to earn an honest living free of unreasonable regulation. He is represented for free by Pacific Legal Foundation, which has brought successful constitutional lawsuits across the country challenging overreaching occupational licensing laws.

Photo: © Photo courtesy Pacific Legal Foundation