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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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.