Editor, Wall Street Journal
Ann Zimmerman's March 24 article "The Noisy Debate Over Hearing Aids: Why So
Expensive?" says: "A set of hearing aids costs about $2,200 on average. Mead
Killion thinks that's crazy." That statement incompletely represents what I (and
Gail Gudmundsen) think. The price is similar to what we ourselves, as
audiologists, have charged for hearing aids. It includes testing, follow-up,
counseling, and all the important services that go along with a professional
fitting. The problem arises when someone can't afford that level of service.
What is "crazy" is that there is presently no readily available low-cost
alternative for those to whom cost is even more important than the substantial
advantages of professionally-fitted hearing aids.
We don't indict the hearing-aid industry, but call for better alternatives.
Mead C. Killion, Ph.D. , Sc.D. (hon)
President, Etymotic Research
Adjunct Professor of Audiology, Northwestern University, Rush
University, and City University of New York Graduate School.
Gail Gudmundsen, Au.D.
Member, Board of Trustees, Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Chair, Illinois Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Licensure
Dear Dr. Killion,
Journal reporter Ann Zimmerman forwarded to me your email regarding her March
24 article, "Sound and Fury: The Noisy Debate Over Hearing Aids." I appreciate
that you have taken the time to write.
After re-reading Ms. Zimmerman's article and your email, I can't find any
grounds to run a clarification or letter to the editor on this subject. The
concerns that you address in your email are all fairly covered in her story.
First, I believe that it is clear from your comments in the article that you
do believe that the $2,200 average is out of line and is too high for many
people. You do want to sell hearing aids that are significantly less money, and
that would drive down the average.
Second, your email implies that Ms. Zimmerman portrayed you as believing that
$2,200 for hearing aids is never appropriate. But, indeed, she wrote: "Dr.
Killion and his wife, Gail Gudmundsen, both of whom hold doctorates in
audiology, think there's a place for high-priced hearing aids and the
professionals who dispense them..."
Third, you state in your email that "the problem arises when someone can't
afford that level of service. What is "crazy" is that there is presently no
readily available low-cost alternative for those to whom cost is even more
important than the substantial advantages of professionally-fitted hearing
aids.'' But Ms. Zimmerman was clear on this point when she wrote that your "main
motivation is to make hearing help more affordable and easier to obtain."
Dr. Killion, thank you again for your email, and I do hope this helps to
explain why we will not run a clarification or letter to the editor based on
Karen Miller Pensiero
The Wall Street Journal.
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
Dear Ms. Pensiero:
Gail and I originally spoke to Ann Zimmerman on the condition that we would
have a final check on anything attributed to us, a condition to which she
agreed. At no time were the statements "A set of hearing aids costs about $2,200
on average. Mead Killion thinks that's crazy" read to us, nor would we have
agreed to those statements because they misrepresent what we repeatedly said in
the course of many conversations with Ann.
You conclude "...it is clear from your comments in the article that you do
believe that the $2,200 average is out of line...." You base that conclusion on
the fact that Gail and I believe that $2,200 is too high for many people.
I suggest that this is comparable to concluding that "The average cost of
cars is too high" because many people can only afford inexpensive ones. The
average cost of cars is irrevelant to those with limited income, the only
question is whether or not inexpensive cars are readily available, which there
are. There are few inexpensive hearing aids readily available.
The first two sentences of the article changed the focus of the article away
from the real problem -- the lack of readily available low-cost hearing aids for
those who can't afford the high-technology full-service hearing aids -- to an
apparent indictment of the hearing aid industry. You are right in pointing out
that the article quotes us as saying there is a place for high-priced hearing
aids and the professionals who dispense them. But this contradicts the sense of
the article's first paragraph. We think there ought to be a low-cost alternative
to professionally dispensed hearing aids, but we don't think the average cost of
the latter is crazy.
We request that you reconsider your decision not to publish our letter.
Mead C. Killion
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