One in six Australians have hearing loss. This number is expected to rise to one in four by 2050, thanks to an ageing population and an increasing amount of people being exposed to excessively loud noise.
Hearing aids are impressive pieces of medical equipment, but are severely underutilised – currently, only one in four Australians that could benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually use one.
Despite the fact that poor hearing health affects so many Australians, funding for hearing services is still fragmented between commonwealth and state agencies, and between the public and private sectors.COMPARE & SAVE
Private Health Insurance & Medicare
Private health insurance and Medicare both provide some level of cover for some costs associated with:
Hearing aids – A device(s) that is worn to improve your level of hearing
Assistive listening devices – extra items that help you hear in everyday life, like telecoils, neck loops and personal amplifiers
Audiology appointments – This is how hearing losses are diagnosed and monitored
There are schemes which provide help towards the cost of hearing aids for the elderly population, like the Office of Hearing Services Voucher Scheme. But there is no coordinated overall hearing healthcare program across Australia.
Medicare tends not to cover routine hearing tests or hearing aids for the general population, but it may help to cover some of these costs depending on your current financial situation.
Private health insurance also may help with some of these costs and may cover all or some costs for medical aids like glasses or hearing aids.
How can private health insurance cover hearing aids?
Hearing aids are included on many policies from various health insurance funds but these services are typically only covered by policies with more premium extras.
Policies either pay a set cost or a cash back rebate. This varies because the cost of hearing aids vary greatly across the ranges.
Most private health funds have a specified limit on how many devices you can claim for, such as once every 5 years.
Some health funds offer benefits for repairing damaged hearing aids.
The rebate amount you can claim will depend on your particular health fund and the nature of the cover that you have. You may be able to claim as much as $1200 towards the cost of hearing aids from certain Australian health funds
Health insurance benefits for audiology appointments
Policies either pay a set cost, where an amount (e.g. $40) is paid towards each appointment, or a cash back rebate, where a certain percentage of the cost is paid.
The first audiology consultations typically take longer than follow up sessions as this is where a diagnosis is made. So, policies tend to pay more towards initial sessions and less for those after.
As each health insurance policy is different, we recommend that you contact your health insurance provider directly to determine your eligibility for rebates.
It is difficult to make direct comparisons between health funds as there are significant differences between the various states and territories.
Before you make any decisions about private healthcare, please check with the provider directly. You can also find a more comprehensive list of hearing aid related benefits by fund at privatehealth.gov.au.
Why are hearing aids so expensive?
Hearing aids are an important investment and, even though they are expensive, it’s good to remember that the price you pay is not just for the devices alone.
If you purchase your device from a reputable source, the price should include initial hearing tests, aftercare, and information that an audiologist or audiometrist will pass on to you to help you to get the best out of your new devices.
It’s important to remember that these are devices you could potentially be wearing for the majority of your waking hours, seven days a week, so it is essential that time and care is taken when purchasing your hearing aids.
Should I get private health insurance for hearing aids?
Usually, only the higher cost, more premium level extras cover the cost of hearing aids. These levels also cover many other benefits, whether you need them or not.
Purchasing private health care solely for hearing aids may not be a valid investment, but you may want to look into some of the other benefits they can offer, to see if any other features could be an advantage.
What should I be aware of when comparing health insurance?
Waiting periods – This is how long you have to wait before purchasing a policy and making a claim. These can vary from 12 months all the way up to 36 months and beyond.
Limits – This is the maximum amount that can be claimed and how many times in a certain time period. For example, one health fund may offer $800 towards one or two hearing aids every 5 years.
Conditions and exclusions – There are times when health insurers will not pay out. There aren’t usually many restrictions when it comes to hearing aids but it is always best to check before purchasing.
If you want help comparing prices for insurers that will cover hearing aids, Compare Club has online and over the phone support.COMPARE & SAVE
This guide is opinion only and should not be taken as medical or financial advice. Check with a financial professional before making any decisions.