Although we live in the lucky country of Australia which usually helps with the funding of most health-related procedures or devices, not everyone in need qualifies for such funding.
From my experience as an Audiologist, if you have a job with a reasonable income, don’t have any other disabilities, and are between 26 and 65 years of age, you will unlikely qualify for the public funding available to some for hearing aids. Instead you will have to fund them privately with potential support from a health fund if you have the appropriate level of cover. If, however, you are a low income worker (if you own a low income health card this is you) or you are in the process of securing a job but still don’t have a disability and are between 26 and 65 years of age, you may qualify for FREE hearing aids through a Hearing Aid Bank initiative.
Related: Top 10 ways to fund a hearing aid in Australia
What is a Hearing Aid Bank?
A Hearing Aid Bank is essentially a scheme designed to provide reconditioned hearing aids to people who have a hearing loss but are not in the financial position to afford them. People who qualify for this scheme are usually low-income workers who require a hearing aid to communicate well at work. This segment of the community often loses out on public funding but this shouldn’t be the case.
We know that the employment rate for hearing impaired individuals aged between 45 and 65 is lower than for the same group in the general population. It is 20.5% lower for men and 16.5% lower for women. We also know that nearly half of Australian with a hearing loss are of working age (16-64).
So Hearing Aid Banks have a huge gap in the market to fill which over time should hopefully be met with public funding from the federal or state governments. Different groups are trying to lobby for this change but until then, Hearing Aid Banks are your best bet.
Hearing Aid Banks Around Australia
Now that we can see the importance of a hearing aid bank, let’s highlight the different hearing aid banks around Australia.
Hearing Care Industry Association (HCIA) runs a national hearing aid bank initiative through its member Audiology Clinics. If your state doesn’t have a designated hearing aid bank, the HCIA hearing aid bank could help. To be eligible for this bank you must meet the following criteria:
If successful, HCIA will provide $1050 for one hearing aid or $1500 for two. For the majority of people, this should be enough to cover the more basic hearing aids. Where more sophisticated hearing aids are recommended, the member audiology clinic is encouraged to provide them at minimal or no additional cost.
How to apply?
An application form can be downloaded from their website here. Once complete, the form can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information call 02 6685 3829 or visit their website here.
New South Wales
Hearing Matter Australia and Macquarie University established a hearing aid bank to help low income people access hearing devices. To qualify a person must fulfil the following steps:
1. Hold a government health care card OR be a low-income earner (statement from employer required).
2. Provide a copy of a recent audiogram or hearing test (less than 6 months old).
3. Have a GP referral letter.
There hearing aid bank does not provide the hearing aid for free although it is significantly reduced at $300 for one hearing aid. This includes the assessment appointment, fitting appointment and any earmold. Usually only one hearing aid is offered. If a second one is needed, this is $100. Audiology services is conducted by the Speech and Hearing Clinic inside the Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University.
How to apply?
Applications can be sent to:
HMA Head office
Australian Hearing Hub
For more information call 02 9878 6089 or visit their website here.
Better Hearing Australia runs a hearing aid bank in Victoria. They don’t mention a specific application process on their website although it appears their services are for the following people:
Want more information?
For more information call (03) 9510 1577 or visit their website here.
Better Hearing Australia also runs a hearing aid bank in Brisbane but can be accessed through Clarity Hearing Audiology Clinics through the state of Queensland. They provide quite a comprehensive service for people in need including:
Eligibility for this program has been set quite broadly so as many people in need are given the help they require. The only requirements is that the person has a demonstrated clinical need for a hearing aid and holds a Health Care Card
Want more information?
For more information call (07) 3844 5065 or visit their website here.
It doesn’t appear that Tasmania has a hearing aid bank although when I was working in Tasmania from 2014-17, the Tasmanian Deaf Society ran one. There is no mention of it on their website, but it might be worth giving them a call on (03) 6228 1955
There doesn’t appear to be any hearing aid bank in South Australia. If you are from South Australia or know otherwise, please correct me if I am wrong.
Here at Pristine Hearing, we are the only Independent Audiology Clinic in Western Australia that runs its own hearing aid bank. Our goal is to help as many people in Perth (and more broadly Western Australia) as possible with the gift of hearing and don’t want affordability issues to compromise this. To be eligible for our service, you must meet the following criteria:
For more information about eligibility and what services are provided to successful applicants, please visit here.
Lions Hearing Clinic runs a hearing aid bank for those people in need around the world in developing countries. Their website doesn’t mention whether the hearing aids donated to them are also for local use by people living in Perth Western Australia.
The Northern Territory branch of Audiology Australia together with hearing aid manufacturer Unitron and a few audiology clinics have made Northern Territory’s only hearing aid bank. Unitron donated $30,000 worth of digital hearing aids for underprivileged people living with a hearing loss in the Northern territory. It caters for people unable to finance hearing services and do not qualify for Government assistance.
To find out more about the Northern Territory's Hearing Aid Bank and whether you may be eligible, call (08) 8981 0013 (Darwin) or 08 8952 3110 (Alice Springs).
Canberra Audiology runs a hearing aid bank for people in financial hardship. To be eligible for a hearing aid through their program, the individual must have a significant hearing loss in both ears and provide proof of financial hardship.
For more information please contact them on (02) 6156 4474
How to donate to a hearing aid bank?
No hearing aid bank can survive without the generosity of those who give. Recycling old hearing aids is such an amazing thing you can do because it is good for the environment and helps those who do not have the financial means to be able hear and communicate more effectively with the world around them. Donating to a hearing aid bank is simple. Just call them and ask how they prefer to receive your donated hearing aids. There are usually locations around the state that you can take the hearing aids to. Otherwise postage is always an options.
If you would like to donate your hearing aids to Pristine Hearing, you can either bring them into our Nollamara Clinic or we can come to you to pick them up. Otherwise you are welcome to post them to:
Hearing Aid Bank
1/440 Flinders Street
Nollamara WA 6060
Although hearing aid banks are happy to accept most hearing aids that are donated, there is usually a disclaimer. Hearing aids that are more than 5 years old should not be donated as they are often obsolete and it is difficult to get replacement parts or servicing of these devices by the respective manufacturer. Pristine Hearing will accept hearing aids up to 5 years of age but our preference is for devices that are no more than 3 years old. If in doubt, send them our way anyway as we appreciate any device that is donated because we undoubtedly will have some use for them.
Similarly, most hearing aid banks including our one at Pristine Hearing will not accept custom hearing aids. Custom hearing aids are devices that have been specifically constructed from the impression of an ear. Therefore, they will only satisfactorily fit the ear they were designed for and therefore not be helpful for someone else accessing help through a hearing aid bank.
If a loved one has passed away and has left behind hearing aids, a great way to honour their memory is to donate their hearing aids to a hearing aid bank. Hearing aids that are donated will be reconditioned and provided to someone to help them hear and communicate more easily. What a great way to honour your loved one’s memory.
Pristine Hearing also provides another avenue for people to give hearing aids for our hearing aid bank. We offer a trade in discount for patients who are in the process of getting new hearing aids but would like some financial assistance. We will usually provide up to $500 per hearing aid when they are traded in for newer technology. Your old hearing aids will never be resold but rather provided FREE of charge to a patient through our hearing aid bank initiative.
What if I am not eligible? Is it okay Buy Second-hand Hearing Aids?
As mentioned above, not everyone will qualify and be able to access hearing aids through a hearing aid bank. If you don’t have hearing aids that you can trade in or cannot benefit from public funding, what options do you have available? We explore this in more detail in another post here. But we sometimes get asked about whether it is ok to purchase a second-hand or pre-loved hearing aid. Or even better, use a hearing aid that has been left behind by a loved one who has passed away?
In either case, it depends on a few factors. First of all, we already know that custom hearing aids should not be used if they were made for someone else’s ear. Hearing aids more than 5 years old should probably be avoided too. This leaves behind-the-ear and receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids.
New and old hearing aids need to be specifically fine-tuned to your hearing loss so you would need the guidance of an Audiologist to ensure they are setup appropriately. Also, some hearing aids may be too powerful for your hearing loss so should be avoided as they could damage your hearing further. If you are in any doubt about the appropriateness of hearing aids that have been given to you or have acquired, consult with your Audiologist.
In most instances Pristine Hearing recommends new hearing aid technology as the development and progress observed in hearing aids even in the last 2 years is mind-boggling. We are also happy to work with any device you have or have chosen to get the best outcome for you possible.
If you would like more information about our Hearing Aid Bank, trading in your existing hearing aids or hearing aids in general, please call us on 08 6336 7170 or fill out the form below.
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One of the most interesting aspects of my job as an Audiologist is working out what patients are entitled to with respect to available funding whether it is public or private and working towards securing this funding for them.
In Australia, we have probably the best and most enviable publicly funded hearing services program in the world. The Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program issues funding for around 500,000 hearing aids to pensioners or veterans every year and the number is only growing. Of course with any tax payer funded scheme, there needs to be checks and balances to ensure funding only goes to those who meet specific criteria and when there is a (clinical) need.
The Hearing Services Program in Australia provides eligible participants with access to FREE or subsidised hearing aids every 5 years. The program does however have built in flexibility to ensure patients can get new hearing aids sooner (as in before 5 years) when their circumstances significantly change or when there is a clinical need. This article will explore the various reasons someone may be able to get new FREE hearing aids sooner than 5 years. We will also look at a few specific examples from my own patients.
Who can get a FREE hearing aid in Australia?
Free or subsidised hearing aids in Australia are available to people who can access the Office of Hearing Services Program or the Office of Hearing Services Community Services Obligation Program (see below). To access the first program you need to belong to one of the following categories below:
This program doesn’t just provide funding towards hearing aids but also pays for the associated Audiological consulting time, hearing aid maintenance costs and in some circumstances, assistive listening devices.
To qualify for a hearing aid under this scheme, the hearing loss in the specific ear must meet the following criteria:
If this criteria is not met, the program still provides the options of a hearing aid if:
In all cases, the patient must have good motivation to get a hearing aid. These scheme provides the patient around $500 in funding per hearing aid which is enough to fully fund a basic hearing aid. This device will generally suit most patients although patients are free to choose higher level technology where a gap payment is required.
When Can I get a New Hearing Aid Sooner than 5 Years?
Not everyone is entitled to new hearing aids before the 5 year mark but if you are, your audiologist should be adept at building a case for you. Your Audiologist needs to make sure the case for new hearing aids is strong enough otherwise they may need to repay back any funding you receive from the Office of Hearing Services. For most of my patients who require new hearing aids within 5 years there is usually an obvious refit reason we could apply to their situations. Other times, however, it is not as clear cut and sometimes we need to build a case over several months. Ultimately, the Office of Hearing Services would like to see the following 3 pieces of information detailed by your Audiologist to substantiate a hearing aid refit:
1. What has changed in the patient’s life, hearing, communication needs or physical condition since their current hearing aids were last fitted?
2. Why are the current hearing aids no longer appropriate and what has been done or tried with them to improve their ability to meet the patient’s needs?
3. Why will new hearing aids be more appropriate than the current hearing aids at meeting their needs?
The refit reasons provided by the office (listed below) are intended to be interpreted liberally as they would like patients with genuine need to be able to access new hearing aid funding when the need arises. They do however, like the case for new hearing aids to be made with clear clinical reasoning and defensible clinical judgement used.
Office of Hearing Services (OHS) Refit Eligibility Criteria
Below is the OHS refit criteria (pdf version here) that guides Audiologists who provide services to eligible participants under the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program. It is what I use when trying to build a strong case for my patients.
Refit Criteria 1
The current hearing aid(s) are unsuitable because they can no longer be optimised by adjustments or any other modifications to meet current gain requirements.
When to use this criteria?
Although this refit reason is generally for those cases where a patient's hearing has dropped and the hearing aid is no longer powerful enough, this criteria can be used when it is clear that the current hearing aids are no longer clinically appropriate for the patient's current needs and lifestyle. This is demonstrated in the examples below.
Refit Criteria 2
The current hearing aid(s) are unsuitable because the client can no longer use their aid(s) due to a significant deterioration in health, dexterity or cognitive ability since last fitting.
When to use this criteria?
This refit reason can be used when it is clear that due to a deterioration in health (including vision decline), dexterity or cognition (including memory decline), the current hearing aids are no longer appropriate. Hearing aids that can assist more in noise maybe more appropriate when someone has both hearing and vision impairment. Rechargeable hearing aids or a complete change in style may also be more appropriate to assist patients with management who have had a deterioration to their health. Often when a loved one moves to a nursing home environment, the transition can be made all the more difficult because hearing in more noise is more challenging. Communication in a quiet home is very different and hence new hearing aids maybe more appropriate.
Refit Criteria 3
A change in physical condition of the ear or ear health has occurred since last fitting and the client requires a different style of hearing device(s) to accommodate this change.
When to use this criteria?
If you have had surgery to your pinna due to a carcinoma removal, then some patients with behind-the-ear hearing aids may need to transition to custom hearing aids that fit entirely in the ear. This is because it may be uncomfortable to have the top part of the hearing aid rest on top portion of the ear. Conversely, if you have had surgery to your ear canal or have experienced narrowing of the ear canal, behind-the-ear hearing aids may be more appropriate than custom devices. Essentially this refit reason can be used when something physically has changed in the patient's ear that makes their current device no longer suitable.
Refit Criteria 4
The current hearing aid(s) are unsuitable because the client requires a telecoil, and current hearing aid(s) do not have a telecoil and cannot be retrofitted.
Please Note: This situation does NOT allow for refitting with an FM system or streamer or equivalent.
When to use this criteria?
This criteria doesn't get used that much anymore because since July 2012, patients have needed to opt-out of having a telecoil and this needs to have been documented on the patient's file. In other words, if your Audiologist has recommended a hearing aid but it doesn't have a telecoil, you need to be told this and agree that this is okay by you. If you would like more information about telecoils and why they may be useful to have in a hearing aid, visit our post here.
Refit Criteria 5
Client currently fitted with an Alternative Listening Device (ALD) and now requires hearing aid(s).
When to use this criteria?
This criteria is used when a patient was originally fitted with an ALD (e.g a device for the TV) but has since had a change to their circumstances whereby a hearing aid would now be more appropriate.
Refit Criteria 6
Client’s previous initial fit or refit occurred more than five (5) years ago.
When to use this criteria?
Okay you got me. This refit reason doesn't allow for a new hearing aid before 5 years or does it? An important thing to note is that if you have been given a replacement hearing aid due to lost who damage beyond repair hearing aids but have not had a new hearing rehabilitation program for 5 years, then technically you would be entitled to new hearing aids. This is true even if you obtained a replacement hearing aid/s 4 years and 364 days since you were last fitted with new hearing aids.
As far as the Office of Hearing Services is concerned, they look at when the last hearing rehabilitation program was provided, not the last time a hearing aid was "fitted". Although this is technically true, I (as well as most Audiologists) would never frivolously use tax payer money unless there was a clear reason to refit the patient with new or different hearing aids.
What is a hearing rehabilitation program?
The Office of Hearing Services program funds the services and devices associated with a new hearing rehabilitation program once every 5 years unless there is a clinical need for a new program sooner as allowed for in the above eligibility refit criteria. A hearing rehabilitation program doesn’t just include the fitting of hearing aids but is more encompassing of helping a client reach their hearing potential and communication needs. This may include counselling, providing information about how to improve communication and hearing in various environments, how to manage new hearing aids, discussion about other technology that may help plus more.
This demonstrates the full value of an Audiologist to a patient with hearing loss. Hearing or aural rehabilitation is more than just a device. You can never reach your hearing potential with just a device. With the right guidance and support from an Audiologist, your hearing difficulties can be significantly reduced.
OHS Refit Criteria Applied to Real Scenarios
Maurice – Using Refit Criteria 1
Maurice was a patient of mine who was previously fitted with Siemen’s Motion 100 P behind-the-ear hearing aids in August 2011. The date that I was considering refitting him was 20th of March 2015 so well within the 5 year automatic refit period. The right hearing aid was in bad working order and in fact was damaged beyond repair. Unfortunately, in March 2015 the manufacturer was no longer stocking the Motion 100 P hearing aid so a simple replacement was not an option. If we replaced the right side, the closest option would be the Siemens Orion P behind the ear hearing aid. This would create a mismatch for this patient which for some can lead to poorer audiological outcomes.
Different hearing aids have different internal digital signal processing units especially if they are 4 years apart in technology. Such a difference can impact sound quality and performance in noise. For Maurice, I decided that it was important to show that his speech perception ability improved when he was receiving the same information synchronously in each ear. To do this, I measured his speech perception abilities for each ear separately (with appropriate amplification) and then did the same for both ears combined. He clearly performed better with 2 ears and as such, I used this to substantiate refitting Maurice with 2 new hearing aids that were identical for both ears.
What also was important to highlight is that Maurice had begun avoiding social gatherings due to his hearing – something he wanted help with. His new hearing rehabilitation program was going to focus on communication strategies to get the most out of his hearing and hearing aids in this social settings as well as focus on device management due to the change or upgrade in technology.
1. One hearing aid had been deemed to damaged to repair and Maurice had started avoiding social gatherings which he wanted help with.
2. Nothing could be done with Maurice’s damaged hearing aid and a replacement one would create a mismatch in technology with his working hearing aid making it more challenging from a hearing and management perspective.
3. Refitting both ears would remove the mismatch issue and with better technology as well as a focus on helpful communication strategies, Maurice’s new communication goal/s could be improved upon.
I have found that refit reason one has provided Audiologists with a bit more flexibility than in the past. It isn’t as rigid and allows Audiologists an ability to build a strong case for patients when clinically required.
Tasman – Using Refit Criteria 1
Tasman was a patient previously fitted with Siemen’s Motion 100 P behind-the-ear hearing aids in May 2013. The date that I was considering refitting him was 21st of April 2015 which was only 2 years after the last hearing aid fitting. Unfortunately this patient had lost his wife so his living situation had changed significantly in this 2 years. In the past he was living a rather quiet lifestyle with his wife but now his family had started taking him out more to restaurants. He was really struggling to hear in this nosier environment especially with basic fully subsidised hearing aids.
I tried adjusting his current hearing aids several times over a few months which didn’t help much as these hearing aids were more geared towards more quiet listening environments. He even tried remote microphone technology with his current hearing aids but he did not manage all the devices too well.
The new hearing aids that were proposed had features that were designed to help Tasman have a better chance of meeting his communication goals - which had now included hearing well in a restaurant environment. Features like narrow directionality, directional speech enhancement, automatic adaptive directional microphone, 48 compression channels, and extended bandwidth could all help.
A new rehabilitation program was going to focus on hearing aid management (Tasman was getting a charger and remote control with his hearing aids and they were a different style to what he was coming from) and communication strategies to get the most out of these new hearing aids. A portion of the new rehabilitation program was going to focus on realistic expectations as Tasman needed help understanding that there were limitations to even better hearing aids but also to how well he physically was able to process amplified sounds now which had declined over the years.
1. Tasman’s lifestyle and situation had changed in the last 2 years such that his current hearing aids were no longer appropriate.
2. Adjustments over the course of several appointments couldn’t improve his communication or hearing enough. Communication strategies were also discussed at length with family members present.
3. New hearing aids with better technology for hearing in noise coupled with practical communication strategies, device management and realistic expectations was going form the basis of a new rehabilitation program for Tasman.
Often you will find that a patient’s needs are not being met with their most recent hearing aid choice. Often there are a lot of things we as Audiologists can do with these hearing aids and the patient to improve their performance. Sometimes just a slight tweak to the hearing aids settings, adding a separate hearing program, changing the coupling to the ear, counselling about proper hearing aid use and/or adding other devices like a streamer or remote microphone can make a huge difference.
Refitting with new hearing aids should always be a last resort unless it is clear and obvious that this needs to happen for improved outcomes for the patient.
Ronald – Using Refit Criteria 2
This patient was previously fitted with a Siemen’s Motion 100 MX behind-the-ear hearing aid on the right in September 2013 and a Siemens Orion M behind-the-ear hearing aid on the left in July 2014. The date that I was considering refitting him was 23rd of April 2015 which was not that long after these 2 fittings. This patient was having significant management issues with insertion and changing hearing aid programs.
When I saw this patient 6 months earlier, his problems were not as severe, but his dexterity had really declined since then and I felt he would be able to manage custom hearing aids more easily. Custom hearing aids fit entirely in the ear so can be easier to manoeuvre. This patient has 4 fingers on his right hand and 3 on his left. His GP wanted to get another finger removed but Ronald wanted surgery instead. All in all, a very difficult situation.
Nothing was able to be done with his behind-the-ear hearing aids to make insertion easier for this patient. The fact that he needed to manoeuvre both the top part of the hearing aid behind his ear and a mould into his ear canal was making it too difficult. The proposed custom hearing aids were chosen to make it easier for Ronald to insert as well as physically control his hearing aid programs with the provided e2e technology.
E2E technology enables the synchronicity between hearing aids worn on each ear so that if you adjust the volume or program on one, it automatically adjusts it for the other. This was not possible with his current setup as they were 2 different hearing aids from different technology so they could not communicate with each other. Most hearing aid manufacturers have this basic feature.
1. Ronald’s dexterity and decline in ability to manage behind-the-ear hearing aids (insertion and program changes) coupled with having a mismatch in hearing aid technology for each ear required urgent review.
2. Nothing could really be done to make hearing aid management easier for him with behind-the-ear hearing aids.
3. New custom hearing aids with synchronised technology were recommended to help improve management. A new rehabilitation program would focus on device management (different style of hearing aids).
This case demonstrates that even if someone received hearing aids 12 months ago, they can be refitted with new FREE or subsidised hearing aids now if their situation has significantly changed and they would be best served by new hearing aid technology.
What if I’m on the Community Services Obligation Program?
The Community Services Obligation program is also administered by the Office of Hearing Services through Australian Hearing and provides for more specialised audiological care for the following patients:
If you are on this program, you can usually access new hearing aids every 3-4 years depending on your communication needs. The hearing aid usually from higher level technology that would normally be a substantial cost but are fully covered those on this program. This program also covers the cost of more regular audiology consultations and rehabilitation care.
How do I access the Hearing Services Program?
If you would like to start benefiting from this program and improve your ability to hear or follow conversations and just get on with life, then it is easy to apply. You can either apply yourself or you can consent to an Audiologist or Audiology Clinic to do so on your behalf.
Applying Yourself for the Program
If you are wanting to apply for the program yourself, you will need to go to the Office of Hearing Services website. Make sure you have your pension number or eligible card number available.
The first thing you will have to do is check your eligibility here. You will arrive at page that should look like below.
Select your eligibility type for the drop-down list provided. Most people will have a Centrelink Pensioner Concession Card but just select which one applies to you. Next you will need to enter your eligibility number which includes a letter at the end. Write it exactly how it is on your card. You then just need to enter you given name as shown on the card as well as your surname. Lastly enter you date of birth and gender.
One you have entered the information required, press the ‘Check eligibility’ button at the bottom of the page (looks like the image below).
It usually only takes a few seconds before the system lets you know about your eligibility. If it comes back saying you are not eligible, but you feel that you should be, please contact Centrelink (on 13 24 68) and/or the Office of Hearing Services (on 1800 500 726) to see whether something needs to be updated from their end.
If you are eligible, you will come to a page which requires extra information from you including your address and contact number. Once submitted, you will come to a page which allows you to download and print out a GP medical form which can also be download here. Your doctor needs to fill this form out before you can start receiving services or devices under the Hearing Services Program. You will need to bring this completed form with you to your first appointment with an Audiologist from an Accredited Hearing Services Provider.
You can only receive funding for services and services provided by an Accredited Hearing Services Provider of which Pristine Hearing is one. The program allows patients the flexibility to choose who ever they want to go to in order to receive subsidised services from. If you live in Perth of course we would love you to come to us at Pristine Hearing because we believe our patient care is second to none. We also offer nursing home and home visits. However, if you cannot come to us, here is a list of providers that you are free to choose from.
Applying for the Program through an Accredited Hearing Services Provider
If applying for the program by yourself looks too much trouble, then never fear, your chosen Audiologist or Hearing Services Provider can do so for you on your behalf. All you need to do is give them a call, provide them with the information they require and bob’s your uncle, they can apply for you. You will still need to bring a completed GP form (downloadable from here) along with you for your first appointment.
If you are child of someone who wants or needs to access this program, as long as you have a Power of Attorney, you are able to apply on their behalf.
I hope you have been able to find and discover the information you needed. If you have any further questions or need advice about how to access the Hearing Services Program or how we may go about getting you new hearing aids sooner than 5 years, please fill out the form below or give us a call or 1300 774 284 today.
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This question has often come up by my patients when they are about to purchase a new pair of hearing aids. I usually just say to them to make sure to place their new hearing aids under their house & contents insurance. As you will see, this may not be enough. What if the loss, damage or theft occurs outside of the house? What if the owner lives in a Nursing Home? This article will try and answer these questions and more.
Hearing aids, being a tiny device, are easily lost or damaged. Being expensive devices, they can also be a target for theft. When you purchase a hearing aid, it will usually come with a 3-year manufacturer warranty which covers manufacturer defects only. It will also usually come with a 12 month loss or damage provision exercised at the full discretion of the manufacturer (more details below).
Hearing aids placed under your basic house and contents insurance can protect against damage or loss. However, if you only have the basic cover, the insurer will only replace the device if the damage or loss is due to a flood, fire, storm, theft or attempted theft AND if that device is below a certain value. To insure your hearing aids against accidental loss or damage, you will need to increase your level of contents insurance to actually cover accidental loss or damage. You would also want to increase your cover to include hearing aids as a specified content which covers more valuable items.
To insure against the loss or damage occurring outside of the home, most insurers will require you to increase your cover and specify that the hearing aids are a portable content. Usually an excess of about $100 applies. Some insurers allow this portability to be up to 120 continuous days like when you are on holiday and will even cover you if your holiday is outside Australia. This means you don’t have to double up insurance by having them covered by your travel insurance.
If contents insurance is too excessive for your needs, it might make sense to just have insurance for the accidental loss and damage of your hearing aids. If you need help with this or you would like help to ensure your existing house & contents insurance provides enough cover for your hearing aids to ensure it doesn't have exclusions that would decline a claim, please fill out the form below.
Most Common Ways to Lose or Damage Your Hearing Aids
As an Audiologist, I have seen it all when it comes to lost or damaged hearing aids. Here is a list of the most common (and even obscure) ways patients have lost or damaged their hearing aids:
Manufacturers Warranty and Loss/Damage Clause
As mentioned above, when you purchase a new hearing aid in Australia, you should receive a 3 years manufacturer warranty for any defect that may arise. Consumers have the option to increase this warranty to 4 years but additional costs apply.
Most manufacturers have a 12-month loss and damage provision. What this means is that if your new hearing aids are lost or damaged within the first 12 months of purchase, you may be able to get a new replacement device. It is important to note that there are some clauses or caveats to this provision which are:
When making a claim, most manufacturers will require an excess or replacement fee of about $500 when the device is from a higher level technology above their basic range. Although $500 is a lot of money, it is significantly less than what a good hearing aid would cost.
What Contents Insurance Should I Get for my Hearing Aids?
As one navigates the world of insurance, it can be quite daunting and difficult to know what your insurance actually covers. Not having the appropriate level of cover can lead to disappointment and result in the item that was lost, damaged or stolen not being replaced. For a device like hearing aids that can be quite valuable, this can be a most unfortunate predicament.
Below we explore what the basic level of contents insurance covers and what it doesn’t cover. We then look at what upgrades are required to ensure the most appropriate level of cover.
Standard Contents Insurance Cover
Most Insurance companies will replace a device new for old when it has been damaged, lost or stolen but only under specific situations
What it does cover
What it does not cover
What to include with your upgraded Contents Insurance
The first thing you will want to do if you want to insure your hearing aids is to allocate them as specified contents. Specified contents give you the option to list high value items for a nominated amount, higher than that offered under the standard contents cover.
Since most patients will wear their hearing aids outside the home which should be encourage for maximum benefit, you will want to increase your cover by including them under portable contents. This may also be called ‘personal valuables cover’. This ensures that if they are lost, damaged or stolen outside of the home, you will be covered. Portable contents also usually covers loss, damage or theft outside of Australia like when you are on holiday for up to 90 to 120 continuous days at a time. Always check the fine print to make sure this is case as every insurance company is different some may only cover portable contents in Australia and New Zealand. If your insurance doesn’t cover your hearing aids outside Australia or New Zealand, you may want to shop around for better insurance or include hearing aids on your travel insurance.
Lastly, make sure you are covered for accidental loss or damage as this is usually and extra add-on or only reserved for premium policies and can mean the difference between being covered or not. Most loss or damage is accidental so just make sure this is included.
Oh yes, just before I forget. It is also possible to have a new for old replacement clause so that even if your hearing aids are 3 years old when you lose or damage them, you would be able to get comparable replacement devices that have modern up to date technology which could actually improve you hearing performance in general.
How much does contents insurance cost?
The cost of contents insurance is based on the following variables:
It is quite easy these days to get quotes online for your insurance and companies usually offer discounts for policies purchased over the internet. Below are company quotes (as of 25th March 2020) for contents cover that includes $8000 hearing aids as specified and portable contents. I have assumed house contents have an accumulative value of $32,000 and that the owner is happy to pay a $500 excess.
Even when keeping the variables the same across each quote, there is a huge difference in price. I would suspect this depends on whether there is accidental cover and the degree of content portability. As always, read the product disclosure statement carefully before purchasing any policy and if you are unsure about anything, it might be good to have an insurance broker help you navigate your options.
This is where we can help. We have linked in with an insurance broker who would be more than happy to take a look at your current insurance cover and to give advice as to what inclusions you need to ensure your hearing aids are covered. They may also be able to offer you a special deal to reduce the cost of your monthly premiums as well as offer you dedicated contents insurance just for your hearing aid. If this is someone you would be interested, please fill out the form below.
Hearing Aid Insurance Help Form
What if I live in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Arrangement?
When moving into a nursing home or assisted living care, the number of items that you bring with you is usually significantly less than what you actually own. Nevertheless, those few items will often carry special sentimental as well as monetary value. Contents insurance that understands this specific situation is important so that you only pay for what you need. Currently, APIA is one of the only companies that offers contents insurance for people living in a nursing home and will cover up to $1000 per item for contents that you own and is kept in your residence. This includes medical equipment like hearing aids. If your hearing aids are worth at least $2000 per device, it is probably worth listing them as a specified item especially if they will be used outside the nursing home.
Do I have to worry about insuring my hearing aids if I’m a Pensioner?
As a pensioner living in Australia with a hearing loss, you are entitled to subsidised hearing services as provided for by the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program. You have the option of either using this funding to receive fully subsidized or FREE hearing aids or to pay a gap payment for more sophisticated hearing aids. If you choose the later, the gap payment per hearing aid could be around $700 to around $4000 depending on the technology. Whenever you spend money towards hearing aids, I would always encourage you to think carefully about placing them under your contents insurance.
Lost or damaged hearing aids under this scheme can be replaced for $30 when the device was fully subsidised to begin with. When replacing a device that you paid a gap payment for, the $30 fee is waivered if your replacement device is the same level of technology higher. You are still required to pay the gap payment which is why having insurance helps. You also have the option to replace the lost or damage device with a FREE or fully subsidised option.
In either case, a statutory declaration or damage beyond repair letter from the manufacturer is required.
No matter where you are in Australia, Pristine Hearing can organise a replacement set of hearing aids and set them up without you even needing to come in for a physical appointment. We can set your replacement hearing aids up in our clinic using special equipment and make a remote telehealth appointment with you over the internet in case we need to make and adjustments. Most hearing aid manufacturers enable your Hearing Care Specialists to make adjustments to your hearing aids remotely via intuitive and easy to use smartphone apps on your iphone or android.
If you need replacement hearing aids and you would love to not have to come in physically to a clinic, please call us on 1300 774 284 so we can help.
Also related: How often can I get FREE hearing aids in Australia
Should I just get insurance for my hearing aids?
For some people, it makes sense to just get contents insurance for their hearing aids only. You may want to consider this if your existing possessions just aren't worth the value to insure or if you want to reduce your monthly premium. To do this, it may be possible to take out a stand-alone general property policy that would cover the hearing aids for accidental damage, loss, theft, fire and perils Australia-wide.
In America, there are 2 companies that provide stand-alone policies to insure hearing aids against accidental loss or damage (e.g ESCO). Over the last few months I have actively approached various insurance brokers to see if they could help me find an insurance company in Australia that would do the same. I thought I had made a breakthrough recently when I heard back from one insurance company. The response back was that they would only provide insurance for hearing aids that were accidentally lost or damaged within a locked setting (such as home). They said that they had a scheme in place previously for hearing aids and it was loss making, hence the reason for the exclusions placed on the policy.
As we all know, most hearing aids are likely to be lost or damaged outside the home so this policy would be pointless for many people. I continued my quest and spoke to another insurance broker whom I have dealt with quite a lot in the past and has always been very knowledgeable. His response was as follows:
There is nothing outside of Home & Contents insurance that would cover such an eventuality.
Under standard Home & Contents policies, policyholders can elect to either:
1. Specify certain personal property items they may wish to cover for Accidental Loss or Damage whilst those items are temporarily removed from the home
2. Select a “blanket cover” sum insured for non-specified personal property items they may wish to cover for Accidental Loss or Damage whilst those items are temporarily removed from the home
Or, they can:
3. Effect an Accidental Damage Home & Contents policy which – depending upon the wording – will automatically cover Accidental Loss or Damage to all Contents whilst items are temporarily removed from the home for up to 180 days. Steadfast-badged Accidental Damage Home & Contents wordings do cover this eventuality as standard, but “home brand” policies (i.e.: AAMI, Youi, RAC etc.) will generally only cover Accidental Damage whilst the Contents are at home. I certainly recommend buyer-beware, because on the surface they may appear to be similar…
Hopefully this answers your question.
From all this , it would appear there are no effective stand-alone policies for hearing aids in Austalia available.
As you can see, there are a lot of options available to patients wanting piece of mind when purchasing hearing aids. From my research it would appear that contents insurance is important to have but with the right inclusions: accidental, portability and specified item. This cover is not as important within the first 12 months of purchasing your device as you are usually able to obtain a replacement one from the manufacturer. However, if you travel a lot especially outside of Australia, either including your hearing aids as part of your travel insurance or having the appropriate cover from your contents insurance is a must.
No matter where you are in Australia, Pristine Hearing can organise a replacement set of hearing aids and set them up without you even needing to come in for a physical appointment. We are able to set-up your replacement hearing aids in our clinic using special equipment and post them to you. We can then make a remote telehealth appointment with you over the internet in case we need to make any adjustments. Most hearing aid manufacturers enable your Hearing Care Specialists to make adjustments to your hearing aids remotely via intuitive and easy to use smartphone apps on your iphone or android.
If you need replacement hearing aids and you would love to not have to come in physically to a clinic, please call us on 1300 774 284 so we can help. If you would like more information about esnuring you have enough cover for your hearing aids on your existing house & contents insurance or would like some help with obtaining a new policy with the proper coverage please fill out the form below.
Hearing Aid Insurance Form
As an Audiologist, my patients often don’t realise the funding options available to them when it comes to buying a hearing aid. This article will explore the various funding options available (both public and private) in Australia as of 2019 as well as 10 practical ways to save money on hearing aids.
If you are a child aged 0 to 25 years of age or are an aged pensioner, the Australian Government provides funding towards hearing aids when there is a clinical need through their Hearing Services Program. This funding is also available to people belonging to other categories as you will see below.
Children will generally have access to additional funding for more advanced hearing aids as well as aged pensioner with additional or more complex needs. This additional funding also comes from the Australian Government as part of its Community Service Obligations (CSO).
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) used to help with the funding of hearing aids in very specific situations. As of about 2012, DVA abolished this funding but still provides access to assistive listening devices that are on their approved list of devices (RAPTOR). These devices complement hearing aids and are available to DVA Gold or DVA White (hearing specific) card holders.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will help with hearing aid funding if it is deemed clinically necessary and appropriate in relation to an individual’s NDIS plan. Compensation due to industrial deafness through State run WorkCover can provide funding for hearing aids among other things.
Medicare does not fund hearing aids in Australia.
As well as these public funding options, there are a number of privately funded solutions available too.
Keep reading this post as we explore each avenue in more detail.
Different Public Funding Option
The first way to be able to access public funding in Australia towards hearing aids is to be an Australian Citizen or Permanent Resident. Once you have ticked this off, there are a few more hoops to get through before tax payer funding can be accessed.
1. Australian Government’s Hearing Services Voucher Program
The Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program which is administered by the Office of Hearing Services resides within the Department of Health. By far the largest proportion of hearing aids fitted in Australia each year comes from hearing aids funded through this program. In the 2017-18 financial year, it provided funding towards a whopping 404,912 hearing aids. 733,400 pensioners and other eligible clients benefited from this program in 2017-18 and the numbers continue grow. This is partly due to Australia’s ageing population but also because more and more people are learning about the importance and benefits of treating a hearing loss sooner rather than later.
See also: Benefits of treating a hearing loss.
To access this program you need to belong to one of the following categories below:
This program doesn’t just provide funding towards hearing aids but also pays for the associated Audiological consulting time, hearing aid maintenance costs and in some circumstances, assistive listening devices.
To qualify for a hearing aid under this scheme, the hearing loss in the specific ear must meet the following criteria:
If this criteria is not met, the program still provides the options of a hearing aid if:
In all cases, the patient must have good motivation to get a hearing aid. These schemes provides the patient around $500 in funding per hearing aid which is enough to fully fund a basic hearing aid. This device will generally suit most patients but if it not suitable then you can use the funding towards better technology and just pay the gap payment. You can also use your private health insurance (see below) to help defray the cost of this gap payment.
If you would like to access this program through Pristine Hearing, just follow the 3 simple steps found here.
2. Community Services Obligation (CSO)
The Office of Hearing Services provides additional funding for patients who have complex needs. This extra funding goes towards better hearing aids, fully subsidised remote microphone technology and more specialised audiological care. At this stage, a patient can only access this additional funding at Australian Hearing although this may change in the not too distant future. To qualify for this additional funding, you must meet the following criteria:
3. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA)
As mentioned above, DVA no longer provides funding towards hearing aids. However, DVA Gold and DVA White (hearing specific) card holders can access the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program. This cohort of patients also has access to additional funding to help fund the full costs of various assistive listening devices such as the following:
Most devices need prior approval by DVA before they can be provided by your Audiologist. Your Audiologist must demonstrate to DVA that there is a clinical need for any device they approve. There are exceptions to this rule for DVA Gold Card holders only who do not require prior approval for say TV ALDs, smoke alarms (must have a severe hearing loss in the better ear) and doorbells. There are restrictions on how often these devices can be replaced under the scheme. Unfortunately, telephones specifically designed for the hearing impaired are not included.
4. National Disability Insurance Scheme
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (aka NDIS) is a national funding scheme for individuals with a disability that impacts their ability to participate in everyday activities including work. A person can become a participant of the NDIS if they have not yet reached the age of 65. This scheme has progressively rolled out all across Australia since 2013 and should have reached most places by July 2019.
Once you become an NDIS participant, most people are amazed by the flexibility of the funding that is provided. Each participant must have a plan created with a NDIS planner that specifies what supports and help a person requires to reduce the impact of their disability. Now as long as the service or device is deemed necessary and appropriate for this person in relation to their NDIS plan, then NDIS will technically fund it. In the context of hearing impairment, NDIS could help fund hearing aids, accessories, assistive device & appointments.
So how does one apply to become a participant for the NDIS I hear you ask?
If hearing loss is your only disability, you can access NDIS funding through one of three criteria:
To apply, you must fill out an Access Request Form which you can get from your local NDIA office or by calling 1800 800 110. You will need to provide age and residency evidence.
If in doubt or you need clarification, call NDIS on 1800 800 110.
Medicare (Not a Funding Option for Hearing Aids)
Medicare in Australia does not fund hearing aids but will contribute to the cost of hearing assessments performed by an Audiologist when requested by an ENT, neurologist, paediatrician and GP under specific situations which may include:
If you have sustained a hearing loss due to noise exposure at work, you may be entitled to compensation as a lump sum, weekly payment or to pay for the cost of hearing aids. Each State regulates work injury compensation claims including those associated with a hearing loss through their WorkCover body.
Since the early 1990’s, it has become compulsory for employers to arrange baseline hearing tests for all workers working in a ‘prescribed place’. A prescribed place is any work area that exposes a worker to the equivalent of 90dB(A) of noise over an 8 hour period. For every 3dB increase the equivalent noise exposure period is halved. An example could be a worker who works in 96dB(A) of noise for a period of 2 hours as we need to half 8 hours twice.
Employers who don’t comply could be fined up to $2000 but can vary depending on the jurisdiction. To help with the accuracy of any claims brought forward, WorkCover requires that only accredited and approved hearing testers, of which Pristine Hearing is one, are allowed to conduct the hearing tests.
If you feel that your hearing problems are work related and you work in a prescribed place, I would organise a hearing test. Each state has it’s own procedures so please call your own State’s WorkCover outfit for more details.
Different Private Funding Options
Now that we have looked at and exhausted all the publicly funded avenues available in Australia to fund hearing aids, lets look at the private options.
6. Private Health Insurance
Some (not all) health funds provide funding towards hearing aids (up to $1000 per device), hearing assessments and hearing aid repairs. If you have a hearing loss and are likely going to need hearing aids, it would be worth shopping around for the best health insurance that provides the most for your audiology needs.
The Independent Audiologists Australia (an organisation Pristine Hearing belongs to) does research every year and summarises the funding each health fund provides for hearing aids and hearing services. The latest version is available here. Use this as a guide only as the federal Government legislated for all health funds to simplify their products and as such, different levels and what they provide will have changed.
Things to consider when looking at health funds for audiology benefits
7. Insurance for Lost, Damaged or Stolen Hearing Aids
Millions of hearing aids every year get stolen, lost or damaged. They are expensive devices that should carry some level of insurance for the wearers piece of mind. At the end of the day they are quite small devices and can be easily misplaced, driven over or flushed down the toilet. Unfortunately, this is an ever so frequent story I hear from my patients.
Luckily most of them had placed their hearing aids on their home & contents insurance so were able to replace their lost or damaged hearing aid fully funded by their insurance company.
However, it is important to look at the fine print. Not all insurance companies cover hearing aids that are lost, damaged or stolen outside of the home. A lot of hearing aids are lost when a patient needs to go in hospital. They are often just brushed aside and forgotten about.
A dedicated hearing aid insurance company has entered the market call HearInsur. They cover hearing aids regardless of where the loss or damage occur. For more information about HearInsur and why they could be a good and cheap option for your piece of mind, see their website here.
See also: Should I have my hearing aids insured?
8. Interest Free Payment Options
In the era of ‘buy now, pay later’ payment options, the hearing aid industry is only just catching up. Most audiology clinics will provide some form or interest free payment option to make it easier for a patient to purchase hearing aids without having to fork out a lump sum of money. Pristine Hearing uses Zipmoney with a 6 month interest free term which our patients find is enough time to spread out their payments into more manageable bite sized pieces.
Those who have difficulty paying for hearing aids may be able to access money from their superannuation early. This is dependent on your super fund so best to talk to them before going down this pathway. You will usually require a recent hearing test from an audiologist (nothing older than 6 months) as well as a quote for the recommended hearing aids. For more information about this, please visit here.
10. Personal Loan
Another option to finance hearing aids is to get a personal loan. A personal loan will incur interest although the cost of hearing aid can be spread over years instead of upfront. Definitely shop around and seek financial advice before going down this pathway.
11. Interest Free or Low Interest Credit Cards
Although we would recommend thinking carefully before acquiring a credit card facility, it is possible to obtain new credit cards with an interest free (or low interest period). This may be a better solution than a personal loan if you are able to pay off the credit card during this period. Please seek financial advice or do your own research if choosing this option.
12. Tax Rebates
Although not a funding option per se, some individuals may be able to use the net cost of hearing aids as a deductible purchase. Eligibility criteria applies and this may change from year to year. We recommend speaking with an Accountant for advice as to what is claimable and who is eligible.
13. Hearing Aid Banks
If private funding is not possible, you may qualify for FREE or heavily subsidised new or preloved hearing aids from a hearing aid bank. Most states in Australia have a hearing aid bank that provides hearing services and devices at little or no cost for individuals in financial issues. They usually have specific criteria that needs to be met in order to qualify. For more information about hearing aid banks and to find out if there is one near you, visit our blog post discussing this very topic here.
Ways to save on hearing aids
From my dealings with thousands of patients over the years, I would like to share 9 tips or ways to ensure your experience with an Audiologist is the very best it could be so that you can save money on your hearing aids.
1. Do not go to an Audiologist who belongs to a chain of Audiology Clinics as more than likely they are owned by a hearing aid manufacturer. This means you only have access to one brand of hearing aid and this may not necessarily be the best for you. Audiologists in this kind of clinic usually work with sales commissions so are lured to recommend you more expensive hearing aids than you may actually need. Read here for more information about how hearing aid sales commissions can unnecessarily inflate the cost of hearing aids.
2. Go and see an audiologist who works for an independent audiology clinic that is a member of Independent Audiologists Australia. They have a list of clinics that don't offer their staff sales commission for hearing aid sales and must abide by ethical and professional standards. Pristine Hearing is an Independent Audiology Clinic but you can find more here.
3. Trial the recommended hearing aids before committing to them. Have your Audiologist assess your performance with the recommended hearing aids in say noise and compare this to your performance with more basic hearing aids in the same environment. You may be surprised by the results. Most clinics will let you trial the hearing in the appointment, at home for the day or some may even allow a week trial. We do all.
4. Get your Audiologist to provide the rationale behind a hearing aid recommendation – you need to know why say a less expensive hearing aid was not recommended and why. What specific features are being promoted and why. If your Audiologist cannot explain to you why they have recommended certain hearing aids to a level that you are satisfied with, go elsewhere. If your Audiologist explains how one hearing aid will help you perform better in noise but hasn’t actually tested, you in noise – go elsewhere.
5. Some Audiology Clinics offer discounts when you trade in your existing pair of hearing aids. Pristine Hearing provide up to $500 per hearing aid for patients wanting to upgrade. We use these preloved hearing aids in our Hearing Aid Bank.
6. Some Audiology Clinics offer to price match or even beat competitor prices by up to 5%. Be careful with this as there may be other associated costs for the actual appointments to set the hearing aids up and to make sure they are meeting your needs. Factor all this in when considering where to go. Pristine Hearing is happy to beat competitors’ prices when they are located in the same state as us.
7. Some clinics will either provide an bundled vs unbundled pricing strategy. With a bundled price, the hearing aids and service required to set them up as well as additional appointments are all included in the price. In an unbundled pricing strategy, the price of the hearing aid is isolated from the cost associated with the service or clinical time. Unbundled pricing is better as you can see the actual cost of the hearing aid and only pay for the appointments you need. With bundling, you will often have to pay for appointments you don’t need. For more information about unbundled pricing, visit here.
8. It would be good to get a quote for recommended hearing aids from up to 3 clinics to get a feel for what they are worth or being sold elsewhere. Make sure to ask whether this is the bundled price or the unbundled price. Although price in important, you need to remember that without the guidance of a University Trained Audiologist, you will never meet you hearing potential. You need to feel comfortable with the Audiologist and have a good rapport.
9. You also need to factor in the full service that the clinic will provide you. Will you be able to get batteries, hearing aid repairs and other consumables when you need them? How long do you need to wait for an appointment? Do you need to physically come to the clinic or can they come to you? Pristine Hearing offers quick appointments to address patients’ concerns and are also able to come to your home or nursing home. We even offer late or after work appointments and Sunday appointments.
10. Ultimately even though you are the patient, you shouldn’t just accept what the Audiologist says. Yes, they are the expert in terms of measuring your hearing and matching you up with what they think is the best hearing aid/s for you. But you are the expert in what difficulties you are having, what goals or priorities you have, what you are comfortable with and what you can afford. Audiologists who include you in the decision making process are to be trusted and commended.
If you have any specific questions about this post or anything else, feel free to ask. Just fill out the form below or call 08 6336 7170 today.
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As a patient, it is easy to just accept the recommendations of a health professional without much thought. Sometimes this is not the best thing to do especially when it comes to Audiologists recommending hearing aids. This article is designed to inform you about what to ask your Audiologist so that you can be more confident that their recommendation is made with your best interest in mind. Below is the 5 questions I would encourage you to ask any Audiologist before investing money into a new pair of hearing aids. If your Audiologist cannot answer these questions, I would get a second opinion.
1. Ask your Audiologist to disclose to you any sales commissions or incentives they operate under.
By asking your Audiologist to disclose any incentive arrangements they have will go a long way to ensuring they only recommend what is clinically appropriate for you in your situation. Their readiness and willingness to divulge this information will tell you if their advice and recommendations is something to trust or be mindful of.
2. If your Audiologist recommends a higher level technology hearing aid, ask them what test results or other clinical information have they used to arrive at their recommendation.
Your Audiologist should be able to explain to you in layman's terms how they arrived at their recommendation and why cheaper hearing aids are not appropriate for you. They should be able to demonstrate or highlight the specific hearing aid features in their recommended device that are designed to help you achieve a specific communication goal of yours. If they cannot, I would be doubtful whether their recommendation is grounded in valid and defensible clinical or scientific reasoning.
3. Ask you Audiologist to explain why the hearing aid they have recommended you is more appropriate than say a similar one from a different brand and whether they have any business agreements in place with their preferred manufacturer.
While it is common for Audiologists and Audiology clinics to have a preferred manufacturer, a lot of Audiology Clinics out there are actually owned and run by a hearing aid manufacturer. This means that your choice of hearing aids is limited to their specific brand. You are entitled to request information about all options available to ensure your investment is both informative and the best for your needs. How unfortunate would it be to spend all this money on a specific hearing aid only to find out that another brand would have been more appropriate.
4. Ask your Audiologist for a trial of the recommended technology before purchasing it.
Trying before you buy can be a great way of determining the potential benefit of the recommended hearing aid. I would recommend trialling at home or in the environments you are having difficulty in. If this is not possible, I would at least ask your Audiologist to simulate these situations and measure your speech perception with the hearing aids in. Ideally it would be good to compare your performance with more basic hearing aids if possible. Although trialling a hearing aid over a day or a week is good, performance can improve over time as your brain gets better at using and extracting meaning from the sounds it hears.
5. Ask you Audiologist for examples or testimonials of patients they have seen to demonstrate to you the outcomes they can achieve.
Although every patient is different, it would build confidence in you to see examples of patients from a variety of background who have purchased basic hearing aids as well as more sophisticated hearing aids to see how they have fared. It would be good to see that your Audiologist is able to help patients obtain good results no matter what hearing aid they choose and that these patients are happy with their results. Sometimes this information is not readily available but most clinics conduct patient satisfaction surveys which can be shared.
Commission Based Hearing Aid Sales - Why This Should Stop
It has been well documented over the last few years of the exploitative behaviour of some in the hearing aid industry who pray on vulnerable seniors and anyone for that matter who require hearing aids (ACCC enquiry, ABC report).
More recently this was again highlighted on Radio National and ABC Perth (1 hr 34 minutes into the drive program). This article will examine the nature of commission based hearing aid sales incentives and 5 ways you as a patient can mitigate it.
See also: How Pristine Hearing goes about helping you choose the right hearing aid
As an Audiologist who has been in the industry for many years now, I have seen sales incentives for Audiologists provided in a few ways. Generally speaking, the most common way to incentivise an Audiologist is to provide them commission in the form of money when a patient purchases a hearing aid they have recommended. This is quite common among the large hearing aid clinic chains who are owned by hearing aid manufacturers. Instead of paying their Audiologists a fixed remuneration like Independent Audiology clinics do, commission from hearing aid sales is added.
Companies will usually use a sliding scale meaning the more expensive hearing aids attract a higher commission compared to the less expensive ones. Below is a table that highlights how much money an Audiologist may make from commissions they receive from hearing aid sales. The commission rate is based on word of mouth and personal experience.
So as can be seen in the table above, these sales incentives are like waiving a carrot in front of a rabbit. You would be crazy to think such a model would not cloud the judgement of some Audiologists recommending hearing aids to their patients.
Another model that is used by some clinics is to provide the same commission rate regardless of the hearing aid purchased. So for example a rate of 6% maybe used across all hearing technologies. Although on face value this seems better, in reality it still serves as a way to interfere with Audiology hearing aid recommendations as a more expensive hearing aid will still attract a higher commission. In other words, 6% of a larger number is still more than 6% of a smaller number so the incentive is their to recommend a more costly hearing aid.
Let's look at an example. Let's say John, a 68 year old gentleman, goes to an Audiologist for help searching for hearing aids. His Audiologist performs the standard hearing tests and asks John about his background to get a feel for his situation. When it come to discussing hearing aids, John is told that he needs one of the better hearing aids available. John, not being the questioning type, accepts this recommendation. Being a more expensive hearing aid, John's Audiologist is set to pocket a larger commission compared to the lesser amount had more basic hearing aids been recommended.
The question here is has this carrot waiving sales incentive in the form of a commission clouded the judgement and device recommendation made by the Audiologist? I recently had a patient who told me his brother had purchased hearing aids from a national audiology chain 4 years ago. His brother paid a lot of money for these hearing aids but was told by his Audiologist not long ago that he needed better hearing aids already. There was no clear justification provided for this which I was aghast at. Such blatant mistreatment of patients is something our industry needs to stamp out.
Coming back to other sales incentive programs that have been used in the industry include providing trips for staff who "sell" the most hearing aids as well as other competitions. Companies I have worked for in the past would run competitions between clinics to push the selling of higher level technology hearing aids and assistive listening devices. I found this kind of environment counter productive and did not highlight or acknowledge Audiologists who would simply recommend devices based on defensible clinical reasoning and who consistently obtained great outcomes for their clients irrespective of the devices they had chosen.
I'm not saying that all Audiologists who work with these kind of sales incentives are compromised. All I am saying is why take the risk. Audiology as a profession needs to move away from any kind of sales incentive model and rather focus solely on better patient outcomes. Hearing aids are a medical device and should be recommended or prescribed based on need and specific clinical and medical factors. As soon as our profession bans sales incentives of any kind, the sooner ALL patients can feel like their Audiologists have their best interest in mind.
To this end, Audiology Australia recently put out a public statement relating to their position around commission based hearing aid sales. This can be read here but a summary is provided below.
Audiology Australia, in our response, has called for commissions linked to sales of hearing aids to end...Audiology Australia continues to support the ACCC’s 2017 recommendation that the industry needs to prioritise remuneration structures that reward service and quality advice ahead of sales."
I am very pleased with Audiology Australia's position on this which is far more definitive than any of their positions in the past. I do however, welcome stronger regulation from them in this regard. Audiology Australia also has a complaints handling system that patients can access if they feel they have been given questionable advice from an Audiologist.
Independent Audiologist Australia (IAA) is an organisation that represents the owners of Independent Audiology Clinics in Australia of which I am one. Their position is similar to Audiology Australia and go on to say that "commissions or bonuses contribute to high hearing device costs, create conflicts of interest and are not usually transparent to patients or their referring doctors." For more details about IAA's position as well as other negative factors associated with commission based hearing aid sales, visit the link here. IAA also placed an advertorial in the online Seniors Newspaper recently which comes down hard on those clinics who still use these incentive schemes and promotes that patients only go to Independent Audiology Clinics for unbiased ethical advice regarding their hearing. I recommend you reading this article here.
If you are patient needing help with your hearing and are likely to need a hearing aid I would recommend you go to an Independent Audiology Clinic like Pristine Hearing who unashamedly promotes their clinic as a SALES COMMISSION or SALE INCENTIVE free zone. I know I would feel more comfortable in that kind of clinic as well as feel more confident in any recommendations made to me by their Audiologist.
If for whatever reason you can not be seen by an Audiologist from an Independent Audiology Clinic, the above list of 5 questions you should ask your Audiologist should keep you in good stead.
Not one to pump up our own tyres but Pristine Hearing is a proud Independent Audiology Clinic that does not have any sale commissions or incentives which could cloud our hearing aid recommendations or any device for that matter. Our only incentive is good patient outcomes. This means our recommendations are usually made in conjunction with the individual and/or family and have clear clinical reasoning behind it. We will usually educate our patients about hearing devices from multiple brands and highlight the key features that are relevant and are connected to a communication goal the patient is trying to achieve. We conduct clinical tests that are necessary for building a picture of the patient's physical hearing abilities to determine likely outcome with basic versus more sophisticated hearing aids. Lastly, Pristine Hearing offers FREE trials and a 60 day MONEY BACK guarantee to give our patients piece of mind.
If you would like the privilege of being seen at Pristine Hearing to achieve the hearing results you deserve, call 08 6336 7170 or book online today.
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Michael is a very thorough and experienced Audiologist who takes pride in ensuring his patients are listened to, valued, respected and achieve the best results possible. He has worked as a Senior Audiologist seeing a broad case load from young infants right up to complex adults who require more specialised audiological care and management. Apart from Audiology, Michael has a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from The University of Melbourne. When you see Michael for a consultation, you will wonder why you never saw him sooner.