Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Great British Hearing Aid con ?


Issues surrounding hearing aid provision to assist HoH to work are a long-running saga, based on who should pay for them given the NHS were pulling back from free provision and claims NHS aids lacked the technology HoH needed.. which meant they were priced out of an aid that would help them by private vendors. 
Arguments ensue who pays ?  the state wants employers to pay or set rigid qualification rules for state welfare provision of them, which deaf or HoH say they cannot get because of budget caps etc, which also impacted BSL support.  Of course private aids you pay for 'services' afterwards too, not all needed and some questionable that should be part of the sale anyway, like a guarantee they will work as claimed !

The issue does remind ATR that years ago the price of hearing aids was challenged by a disability group I was a member of. Our research then printed comparisons on price.   The cost (then) to manufacture an standard NHS hearing aid was just £35, the 'private' equivalent that had the same specifications (tested by NHS audiology depts), were £150 to £600. Some with only marginal gains were in £1,000s.  

It goes without saying, tests on db basis was highly suspect anyway. Today we expect along with ear testing what expectations clients have of a hearing aid, many assume an aid is a passport back to perfect hearing again. The traumatic effects of hearing loss are not really part of audiology assessments, much later they become the domain of mental health areas as a result, or hoh  become isolated and alone. Few areas have a 'hearing specialist', to advise on coping with loss, most do not.  Even then those that require even more support have no dedicated areas for it, they rely on charity and peers.  The addressing of hearing loss has no real focus on personal effect.

Given mass production of hearing aids today, maybe they should be looking again at the specifications, effectiveness and prices of hearing aids.   E.G. A large TV set years ago  was over a £1,000, today a comparable set with digital technology is £249 and has subtitles.  The NHS complaints of manufacture and distribution costs does not seem to ring true, they are a lot cheaper these days, it would appear manufacturers are capitalising on the mass issue by the NHS.  

I look at other countries and again a year or two ago, a UK CI was costed at £26,000 to do, the NHS today is highly reluctant to do CI because the cost is still as high and rations provision as a result.   Children first, middle, and last mostly, despite 95% being adults who need to live and work to provide for their children.  Older people are written off, end of.  Given they live longer, it just means more years of neglect, isolation and misery.

In parts of India it is £1600 today for a CI, and hearing aids just £15.  China is also 75% cheaper than the UK.  We in the UK are less at the cutting edges of technology more at the peak of pricing for it, especially if the client is a captive one who has is vulnerable and prepared to pay the higher prices just for hype, believing totally a 'private' hearing aid is far superior to any NHS provision, in most cases it won't be. The NHS aid may well be made by the same manufacturer, and with very little or nothing in specification advantage to the one they are selling to you..  You get pretty colours.

We saw no reduction in medical skills or dangers doing it cheaper either because it was in bulk, a lot more with a need for a CI got them.    CI's and hearing aids should be free anyway as it saves the country billions in support costs, education needs, lost jobs, and ruined lives.  One youtube vblog we saw where students downloaded diagrams for hearing aids and made their own for £16 buying spare parts in bulk.  Other students experimented and improved on them too.

Hearing loss costs the UK £30B ($390840000.0000) a year, it's a pandemic issue. Even if we agreed with the Deaf suggestion teach them all sign language(!!), it would cost 4 times that to provide interpreters, assuming that amount would be trained via another £6B and you waited 25 years.  Time for plan B ?

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