The job of the audiologist is to firstly identify if a hearing loss is medically treatable or a permanent condition. If the latter, they are then able to match up the individual’s listening needs and hearing loss with the correct hearing aid from the myriad of hearing devices on the market. Audiologists seek to answer these sorts of questions:
1. Does the person actually need hearing aids? Audiologists provide hearing assessment – diagnosis of hearing loss, establishing whether the loss is medically treatable (may just be wax, may require surgery, may be pathology which requires urgent medical treatment). If the loss is very mild there may be communication strategies and other assistive device that will help.
2. What is the best possible hearing aid that will meet their needs within their budget? Audiologists provide personalised hearing needs assessment and appropriate aid selection from a variety of aid styles, features and budgets.
3. How can the aids be adjusted to provide an optimal outcome? Audiologists provide computerized fitting and objective verification of the aid’s effectiveness, adjusting, setting up various unique listening programmes, counselling for realistic expectations and training in effective use and care.
4. How long does it take to get used to a hearing aid? Audiologists provide ongoing follow up and support through a trial period making adjustments and problem solving as necessary.
5. How to keep the aids working successfully for several years? Audiologists provide long term care and back up.
6. How to access available government funding?
There are subsidies available for hearing aids, and there is plenty of competition. If people shop around they will find a variety of prices. There is a Ministry of Health subsidy, available to every New Zealander who needs hearing aids, of $511.11 per aid – such funds available for initial purchases, then after 6 years from any previous such claim. Audiologists are authorised to access this funding when people purchase hearing aids. Audiologists will also advise people on their eligibility for other types of funding.
Hearing aids are available to audiology clinics from more than 10 hearing instrument manufacturers, all offering a wide variety of technology levels and prices. The implication that all hearing aids cost more than $5,000 each is misleading. There are a wide range of prices and the majority of people spend considerably less than this.
And lastly – online shopping is fantastic for consumers – but when it comes to health related technology and solutions it can be very risky. Without answers to the questions above, an online purchase might just be a waste of money and lead to disappointment.
You can buy a new hip online for around $300 – but without the surgeons and health professionals to fit it it’s useless. It’s a similar scenario for hearing aids.