Digital hearing aids are used across the globe to help those with hearing loss experience life in a much easier and fuller way. While digital hearing aids are a life-changing device, the sale and use of hearing aids might sometimes not be in total compliance of the law. In addition, the use of hearing aids could go against a person’s religious beliefs. Let’s take a look at a few of the legal and moral challenges some face when buying or wearing hearing aids, and places where many people believe hearing aids are not permitted.

Texas vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Wal-Mart is a true one-stop shop, and now that might even include hearing aids! The retail giant, like its competitors Costco and Sam’s Club, started selling digital hearing aids in certain stores several years ago. While this is great news for many people who are looking for cheaper solutions than custom-made digital hearing aids (which can cost several thousands of dollars), this was not good news for the state of Texas. In 2013, the Texas Hearing Aid Association sued Wal-Mart for illegally selling hearing aids. The state requires a license to sell health-related products like hearing aids, and the store did not comply with this law. A year later, however, a judge dismissed the case against Wal-Mart and they were free to sell digital hearing aids without a license (as many other states allow).

Are Hearing Aids Allowed on Planes?

As a traveler in America, you have to face more stringent security than most other airports in the world. Going through the TSA line can be nerve-wracking, especially if you wear hearing aids. Many digital hearing aid users wonder whether they can keep their hearing aids on through security and onto the airplane.

Good news—you are absolutely allowed to keep your digital hearing aids in your ears and turned on while going through security and onto the plane. The TSA advises that you tell an agent you are wearing hearing aids, and you may be required to undergo a pat-down if the hearing aids set off the metal detector. Also, you can keep your hearing aids on throughout your flight. Although many hearing aids are now equipped with Bluetooth and other technologies, they do not interfere with the plane’s technology system and you do not need to turn your hearing aids off while the plane is flying.

Hearing Aids and Religion

In 2015, a Canadian university student got into a legal scuffle with his professor. The student, who suffers from hearing loss, asked his professor to wear an FM transmitter while lecturing, which would allow him to hear her lecture and participate in class. Surprisingly, his professor refused, citing religious reasons. The instructor also cited an incident nearly 20 years earlier, when she was asked to use a similar device for another student and refused based on her religion. The student, William Sears, attempted mediation with the professor but ended it after several months in favor of a human rights investigation. The professor did not specify which religion she practices but it appears to be some branch of mysticism.

There are also some branches of religion that eschew the use of electricity, like Mennonites, Amish, and Orthodox Jews. Most groups of Mennonite and Amish, however, allow the use of hearing aids as an exception to the no-electricity rule. Orthodox Jews are not allowed to operate electronic switching mechanisms during the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. This can prove difficult for those who use hearing aids, as many Orthodox Jews worry about inadvertently pressing a program button during the Sabbath—a forbidden action—and most Orthodox hearing aid users have their audiologist disable the multi-program option. Dr. Levi A. Reiter, a Hofstra professor of audiology, developed a new type of hearing aid that allows Orthodox Jews to enjoy the multi-program benefit without breaking the Sabbath. The EMET hearing aid allows users to control when to turn on the multi-program option, and can leave it on throughout the Sabbath. In addition, the program cannot be changed or turned off inadvertently.

By: Elena McPhillips