by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I could never find time to book an appointment with an audiologist. I talked to well-meaning friends (in quiet rooms so I could hear them) who said, “There are no shortcuts. You have to do this right.”
Doing it right meant spending hours on tests and $6,000 or more on hearing aids, followed by more time for fittings. What a set of hurdles. Of course, we’re talking about hearing (I thought we were), and who wants to cut corners on that?
Yet I couldn’t pull the trigger. Something about audiologists and tests and fittings and six grand seemed … so wrong. It violated the governing law of the modern economy: Moore’s Law.
Moore’s Law has turned cellphones from those dumb bricks of the 1980s into the slender supercomputers of today. Best thing is I don’t have to book an appointment with a credentialed cellphone expert to get tested and fitted, either. I just buy one. If my $400 bet on a cellphone doesn’t pay off, I’ll buy another.
How could hearing aids, which are also electronic, be immune to Moore’s Law?
Answer: They aren’t immune. But most people who need hearing aids don’t know this. Or they don’t want to know. I think of my mother’s generation, who worship the credentialed medical establishment. She can’t, for a minute, conceive of searching and shopping for her health care needs without pricey consultations and gold-plated assurances.
It took a mere two hours on Google to locate the Moore’s Law center of innovation for hearing aids. I found a site called ableplanet.com and bought a hearing aid for $474.50. FedEx delivered it in two days. The Able Planet package was very cool and Apple-like. The instructions were dirt simple: Insert battery. Insert in ear. Choose your favorite of four settings. Good to go. …
… The caveat is that my hearing loss is mild. I have 80% capacity in my good left ear and about 40% in my impaired right ear. Many people, perhaps including the Minnesota schoolteacher, have worse loss. I have no idea if Able Planet’s devices would work for them.
Moore’s Law changes everything it touches. Hearing aids are no exception. Nor should they be. But when it comes to health care, consumer attitudes are slow to change. And government pretends not to hear.