Gun Owners of America told House lawmakers last week to delete “anti-gun” language added to a prescription drug bill winding its way through Congress.
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, a bipartisan effort introduced in both chambers in March, would allow stores to sell hearing aids over-the-counter.
Currently, the devices face intense regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, can cost thousands of dollars and can be obtained via prescription only.
Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a prime sponsor, said the bill fixes all that by creating a new class of over-the-counter hearing aids. The proposal’s language also mandates the federal government reconsider the definition of Personal Sound Amplification Products, or PSAPs.
“Allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter will help bring down costs and expand consumer choices so that millions more Americans can find affordable hearing aids,” Warren said in a March 20 press release. “This bill will loosen up outdated regulations and, with the right protections in place, let the market bring great products to Massachusetts residents at far lower costs.”
PSAPs — often found in the aisles of sporting goods stores and marketed toward hunters and bird watchers — by law can’t include wording on their labels or in advertisements suggesting the products serve as a low-cost replacement for hearing aids.
Warren’s bill could change all that, too, by subjecting PSAPs and the hunting industry to a host of new regulations, said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America.
“There’s a pretty good chance that these hunting devices would fall within Warren’s definition of ‘over-the-counter hearing aid.’ Which would mean that a new federal bureaucracy would be in charge of regulating hunting,” Pratt said in a letter addressed to the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week. “Were Warren less of an enemy of the Second Amendment, we might give more credibility to the argument that we were protected by the ‘perceived … hearing impairment’ language of the Warren bill. But she isn’t. So we don’t.”
Pratt requests lawmakers delete the amendment containing Warren’s bill from the FDA Reauthorization Act — or at the very least, “put a hold” on the bill and try to fix it.
“In the past, anti-gun senators like Warren have used any pretext, however attenuated, to interfere with hunting and the exercise of Second Amendment rights,” he said. “And we can only interpret this legislative initiative to be the most recent of these.”
Nearly two dozen conservative organizations have urged Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, to “oppose the bill at every turn” in a letter dated May 8 and signed by the Tea Party Nation, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and the Conservative Leadership PAC, among others.
“All hearing loss isn’t the same. So doctors play an appropriate role in helping the patient find and tailor the right solution,” the letter says. “These medical hearing aids are not used for snooping or songbird listening. They are specifically tailored to the patient. The bottom line is that PSAPs are not medical hearing aids and they don’t need to be regulated like medical hearing aids.”
The FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017 awaits a committee vote. No word yet on any plans to address the hearing aid language.