Hearing aids can represent a significant monetary investment. Fortunately, within Australia, there are several options to help relieve the financial burden associated with purchasing hearing aids. These include programs that offer a range of free basic hearing aids; rebates on the cost of purchase; and methods of spreading payment costs.
Below is an overview of the most common ways of helping to fund hearing aids in Australia.
Office of Hearing Services (OHS)
The Australian Government Hearing Services Program is managed by the Office of Hearing Services (OHS). Eligible individuals are able to access a range of hearing services through the OHS voucher system.
These services are typically available to Centrelink pensioners, some veterans and their dependents.
- Hearing assessments
- A range of fully subsidised basic hearing aids (or assistive listening devices)
- Ongoing support and maintenance (including battery supply), which may incur an annual fee.
Individuals under the OHS program also have the option to ‘top-up’ (pay out of their own pocket) in order to receive devices with additional features that are not fully-subsidised under the program.
Self-funded retirees and working individuals usually do not qualify.
Value Hearing has recently become accredited to provide services under this system and will be delivering the same high quality of services to clients under to the OHS system as we do to our self-funded clients.
Veterans (DVA) and Current ADF Personnel
Veterans with a DVA Gold Card or White Card (Hearing Specific), as well as current members of the ADF, are also eligible to receive services under the OHS system (outlined above).
Eligible individuals can apply online to receive their voucher.
DVA does not currently pay for top-up hearing aids. Individuals who choose a device that is not fully subsidised under the program will need to pay the difference.
Accessing Superannuation Early
Those who have difficulties paying for hearing aids may be eligible to access their superannuation to cover the cost. Some policies may not allow early access, therefore it is recommended to speak to the Super Fund before initiating this process.
Individuals can apply through the personal details section of their Centrelink online account, found through myGov.
To access super early, applicants will need to provide at least:
- A recent (less than 6 months old) report from your audiologist
- A quote/unpaid invoice to determine the required amount to pay for the hearing aids.
Payment Plans/Financing through the hearing care provider
Some hearing aid retailers provide financing options to their clients. There are both interest free and interest bearing financing available.
Interest-free payment plans are popular, but they can charge very high merchant fees (10% + in some cases) to the retailer. This means that providers offering these, often have to inflate their prices to be able to offer these plans.
Value Hearing provides 12 months interest free payment plans. You can read more on our financing page.
Some people choose to take out a personal loan in order to finance their hearing aids. Personal loans will incur interest so it may be beneficial to use a comparison website (such as infochoice or finder) to find the total cost.
There are companies out there which specialise in loans for medical expenses. Again, these will usually incur interest so it pays to shop around.
The advantage of a personal loan is that it spreads the cost of hearing aids across months (or years), rather than having to pay a lump sum upfront.
Personal loans can often offer interest rates lower than those associated with some hearing aid retailers.
Interest-Free (or Low-Interest) Credit Cards
While some credit cards have high interest rates, others (particularly new cards) may offer an interest-free (or low-interest) period. For those able to pay off the cost of the hearing aids within this time-frame, paying by credit card may be a better alternative to a personal loan.
As with personal loans, it is advisable to research the available options and to use comparison sites, in order to determine which card is best suited to the individual’s situation.
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
The NDIS is a program designed to support Australians under the age of 65 with a permanent and significant disability. This support includes funding ‘assistive technology’ such as hearing aids.
As the program is currently being rolled out across Australia, it is not yet available in all areas of the country.
After checking their eligibility for the program, applicants can contact the NDIS on 1800 800 110 to ask for an Access Request Form.
Applicants may be asked for supporting evidence of their hearing loss, and hearing needs, which an audiologist should be able to provide.
The Scheme is still in its infancy and there are many wrinkles to still iron out. Many providers are not yet registered to provide services under NDIS, so clients who are eligible have a great deal of difficulty finding services who accept NDIS.
It is important to note that tax rules can change from year to year, and as a result, eligibility may change from year to year. When in doubt it is advisable to ask a qualified tax expert as to what is claimable.
Private Health Insurance
Individuals who purchase hearing aids may be eligible to receive a rebate through their Private Health Fund. Private Health cover will vary across policies, so it is important to speak to your provider in order to determine your entitlements.
Private Health funds will often have limits as to how much, and how often, people can claim for hearing aids. You generally need to be seen by a registered hearing care provider to be eligible to claim. We have some guidelines on private health insurance rebates here
Those who feel that their hearing loss is a result of their employment may wish to investigate the possibility of compensation. Each state varies in terms of what level of hearing loss is compensable, and those unsure should speak to their state’s regulatory body.
If accepted, an individual may receive compensation in the form of hearing aids, or a lump sum. It is important to determine if compensation is a one-off event or a periodic entitlement.