Attorney General Tong Announces Settlements with Four Hearing Aid Companies
(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong announced today four separate settlements with hearing aid companies Lively Hearing Corporation, Widex USA, Inc., Hark Wellness, Inc., and Wonder Ear, Inc. who marketed their products as “FDA-approved” despite no such approval.
Hearing aids currently do not require, and do not receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While hearing aid manufacturers register their products with the FDA, hearing aids do not currently undergo pre-market approval the way new drugs and some medical devices do. Although Congress enacted legislation in 2017 permitting the FDA to create a category of over-the-counter hearing aids, the FDA has not yet issued a final rule and no hearing aid suppliers should be marketing their products as “FDA-approved.” The Office of the Attorney General opened an investigation into these over-the-counter hearing aid companies out of concern that consumers would be misled by the “FDA-approved” language into believing that their hearing aids received a government endorsement or approval that they had not.
“These companies marketed their products as “FDA -approved” when they were not. Over-the-counter hearing aids may be fine options for certain adults with mild to moderate hearing loss, but there is no federal approval of these products right now. Consumers need to research these products thoroughly before spending their money on a product that may or may not provide safe, effective or meaningful hearing assistance,” said Attorney General Tong. “Our investigation is ongoing and any company marketing these hearing devices as FDA approved should expect to hear from our investigators.”
Collectively, the four companies will pay $40,000 in payments to the state and have agreed to cease marketing their products as “FDA approved.” Specific agreements are outlined below.
Lively Hearing Corporation is a direct-to-consumer hearing aid company located in New York which sold over $200,000 worth of hearing aids to over 100 Connecticut consumers between January 1, 2017 and June 30, 2021. They will make a payment to the state of $15,000.
Widex USA, Inc. is a wholesale hearing aid company located in New York which sold over 21,000 hearing aids valued at over $13 million in Connecticut between January 1, 2017 and January 4, 2022. They will make a payment to the state of $15,000.
Hark Wellness, Inc. is a direct-to-consumer hearing aid company located in New York which reported that it had not sold to any Connecticut consumers. They will make a payment to the state of $10,000.
Wonder Ear, Inc. was a direct-to-consumer hearing aid company located in New Jersey which stopped operating when contacted by the Office of the Attorney General. It had not yet done any business in Connecticut and was not required to make a payment to the state.
The Office of the Attorney General has previously provided these tips for consumers when considering over-the-counter hearing aids:
- The FDA has not approved any over-the-counter hearing devices. Over-the-counter, direct-to-consumer, hearing aids are not regulated like many other medical devices and because of this, may work poorly or not at all and could be harmful.
- Research the seller with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have a good rating before you purchase the product.
- Be skeptical of online reviews and endorsements.
- Read the purchase policy carefully. Can you get a refund if they don’t work? How long do you have to make a return if necessary?
- If you can, get a health screening and discuss your options with a medical professional. They will be able to tell you exactly what kind of hearing device would work for you and make recommendations.
Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Gasser and Jon Blake and Consumer Protection Section Chief Mike Wertheimer assisted the Attorney General with this matter.