Hearing

Getting Started 

First up, gather as much information as you can from:
 

  • The Hearing Association. Their Wellington office is 04 384 7017
    Email: [email protected]
    Web: //www.hearwell.co.nz
    Freephone: 0800 233 445 or the Palmerston North branch 06 357 8708.
  • Also contact NZ Audiological Society,
    Email: [email protected]
    Web: //www.audiology.org.nz, Freephone: 0800 625 166
  • Get a copy of the Ministry of Health’s “Guide to getting hearing
    aids -the funding scheme” and also “The Subsidy Scheme”. Hearing
    aid clinics generally have these on the counter. This information is
    available at //www.accessable.co.nz/hearing.php
  • Life Unlimited, a national charitable association, funded by the
    Ministry of Health (//www.lifeunlimited.net.nz/hearing/) provides
    free advice from their Hearing Therapists, regarding assistive listening
    devices, or hearing aids. They can also provide a free hearing screening
    test to confirm the extent of your hearing Freephone 0800-008-011

Costs and help

  • Hearing aids are expensive, often $5000 and climbing for a pair. But you
    may qualify for substantial assistance.

  • The Ministry of Health’s subsidy scheme provides $511.11 per aid to adults over the age of 16. Note that this subsidy is available to recipients once every
    six years.
    Also, the subsidy doesn’t cover any charges for tests or ”fitting fees”.

  • The cost of the aids may be fully funded for those who have had a hearing
    loss since childhood, or a dual disability – but there is a price cap and the fitting and trial fees are not funded.

  • If you have a Community Services Card and are the full-time carer of a
    dependent person, you may qualify.

  • If you have been subjected to prolonged loud noise in your job, or have lost
    your hearing though an accident, or been in military service, find out about
    funding from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) or Veterans’
    Affairs NZ. If you get support from either of these organisations, you won’t
    also get funding from the MoH subsidy scheme.

  • The New Zealand Audiological Society and the Wellington Branch of The
    Hearing Association jointly run a hearing bank for people who cannot afford
    hearing aids and do not qualify for other funding.Your audiologist will be able
    to help you access this funding if you are eligible.These aids, donated by
    hearing aid companies, are cleaned and reconditioned and can then be fitted
    for people on low incomes, at a minimal cost.

What about the hospital?

Criteria for treatment at hospitals have changed a lot. For example, Wellington
hospital now requires adults to have a Community Services Card if they are
going to get aids from there or Kenepuru.

Selecting a clinic

There are many hearing aid places around, often offering free tests to get you
through the door. But, before committing yourself, make sure that the tester is a
fully qualified and New Zealand registered audiologist (MNZAS). Some of the
work these days is passed on to audiometrists or dispensers who are not as well
qualified and then signed off by a supervising audiologist. Make sure the clinic can
fit a range of hearing aids and is not bound to the products of a single
manufacturer.

  • Get IN WRITING a quote explaining what is covered by the price of the aids.
    Does it cover the fitting fee? How long is the trial period? Will you get all your
    money back if it is not suitable, or will the clinic keep a “failed fitting fee”?

  • There are four or five levels of technology of aids – some may suit you better
    than others. For example, a very basic aid will not help much in background
    noise, but a top end aid may be more than you need.

  • You should be asked about your needs and your lifestyle before an aid is chosen
    – and you should be given a choice. For example, if you are sedentary and
    watch a lot of TV, a more basic aid might suffice. But if you attend noisy
    gatherings or important meetings you will need something more advanced.

  • If you feel uncomfortable, get a second opinion. (Advice from ACC: get more
    than one quote – and for this, you need to know exactly what was being quoted
    for in the first place).

  • Check also that the testing will be done in a sound-treated chamber or
    A certificate of compliance should be displayed at the clinic as well
    as the qualifications of the audiologist/audiometrist.

  • Talk to friends and associates who wear hearing aids. You will find the
    following websites useful:
    //www.independentaudiologists.co.nz
    //www.consumer.org.nz/articles/hearing-clinics
    //www.audiology.org.nz/

Compare prices – shop around

As with any big-ticket item, research the costs between clinics for a similar
level of service and product. And make sure what is included in the price.

Being tested

The testing process has several parts and will require several separate
sessions: assessment of hearing loss, fitting of earmoulds (where required), fitting of
the aids, (which involves computer input of the test data, programming and
fine-tuning) and then a trial period of several weeks – the longer, the better.

It is important to have your spouse/partner with you at the fitting stage to
ensure that you can hear him/her well.

Choices

Very small and “invisible” aids are common these days and very tempting.
But larger, behind the ear aids might suit an older person well. Women’s hair
will normally cover up the larger aids.

Before committing yourself, check that you can change batteries easily and
find out how long they should last – some will go dead after only a few days.

Ask about repairs. Expect the plastic ear tubes, on aids which have them, to
need replacing annually. After four years or so, aids may need a service and
there could be a trying delay if they have to be shipped offshore. If you are
buying an “end of run” aid, spare parts may not be available. Remember, that
under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the aids are required to last a reasonable
time given normal use, not just the basic guarantee period.

Using your aids

A common failing of users new to aids is to wear them sparingly, or just for
important social events. These are permanent devices and coming to terms
with them can take several months – although this is less the case with
modern aids. They will never replace “perfect” hearing. The brain gradually
edits out unwanted sounds, such as wind whistle. If you are struggling after a
couple of months’ usage return to the clinic for adjustments.

Change a battery where there will be a soft landing should the aid slip from
your fingers – and never in hard-floor bathrooms or near the loo. If the
batteries have been in for a few days and you are going out to a show, replace
them.

Changing batteries in a darkened theatre could be disastrous.
Put your aids in a drying box before you go to sleep at night. Most clinics
should have these. Doing this will stop the build-up of moisture which is
damaging long term and can cause the aid to cut out suddenly.

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