As time goes one, many of us find ourselves relying on devices which help us to see, hear and navigate the world. Keeping connected keeps us alive and productive, and there are a variety of appliances we use to do just that: glasses, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, but the ones most in use are those that help us to hear
According to the National Hearing Society’s Awareness Survey, nearly one in every four Canadians reports having some degree of hearing loss. According to Statistics Canada, more than one million adults admit to having a hearing-related disability, but the true number might be closer to three million. Many people are reluctant to acknowledge hearing problems, probably because they consider it an admission of creeping “old age”.
Unfortunately, not addressing the problem can have unfortunate consequences: people may become withdrawn and socially isolated, which can lead to cognitive decline. Research also indicates that there is a greater risk of falling with hearing loss – the risk increasing with the severity of the loss.
Many people have heard negative stories not only about the cost, but about the difficulty of finding the proper aid, discomfort, inefficiency; but it doesn’t have to be this way. (Disclosure: I’ve been wearing hearing aids for several years and yes, it does take patience to get the right fit and to learn how to use them. But it’s worth the effort.) Statistics show that 90% of people with hearing loss can enjoy much better communication with properly fitted hearing aids, plus information as to how to use them, and can benefit from other practical advice: where – for example – to position oneself in a group so as to be part of the conversation, instead of guessing at what’s being said. At the dinner table, sit at the centre, not at the end; and we all learn to read facial expressions, so encourage friends and family not to talk with their backs turned, or with hands over their mouths. Several theatres, not only the majors such as Stratford and the Shaw Festival, have hearing systems and can provide earphones for patrons. There are FM systems which help one hear television, and of course there is close captioning for those with severe hearing loss.
However, most of us manage with hearing aids programmed to make up – at least partially – for our own individual degree of loss. The question then is which ones are worth the money and how to pay for them.
Our cross-Canada survey, coupled with information from The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, reveals that most provinces and territories offer some help for children with hearing problems, although even these may be minimal and/or income tested. When it comes to adults we find a patch-work of programs.
Herewith our findings: HEARING AID SUBSIDIES FOR ADULTS (eligible for provincial funding):- a cross-Canada survey.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Income Tested. Requires a lengthy application, available through the Provincial Hearing Aid Program (PHAP). Useful information is also found at the provincial branch of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.
Prince Edward Island: Adults under 65 with a loss of 50 decibels (db), may apply to the Disability Support Program, funding based on income tax information: those over 65 to the Social Assistance Program.
Nova Scotia: No funding for seniors through the Department of Health but some might be available for income assistance recipients from the Department of Community Services or through the Labour Market Agreement for Persons with Disabilities (LMAPD).
New Brunswick: No funding, unless applicant is a Social Services Client and can meet financial criteria.
There is also limited support for those working under Training and Employment Services.
Quebec: Children and teens with a hearing loss of 25 db and any age adults with a loss of at least 35 db are covered for the purchase and replacement cost of analogue or digitally controlled hearing aids, as well as listening devices such as a decoder, teletypewriter, telephone amplifier, adapted alarm clock, or ring detector. Required: consultation with ear, nose and throat specialist, followed by audiologist, then choose from a list of hearing aid acousticians.
Ontario: Children and adults, reimbursed 75% of cost for aids purchased from a vendor registered with the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), to a maximum of $500 for one, $1,000. For two, $1,350 for the cost of an FM system. ADP requires prior authorization for FM systems for adults. New aids can be obtained, if necessary, after three years. For more information please visit: http://www.health.gov.on.ca.
The Ontario Disability Support Program and those under Ontario Works are eligible for additional financial assistance.
Manitoba: There is no hearing aid funding for adults, with the exception of those covered by the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, for whom limited coverage might be available.
Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan: No coverage for children or adults, although the Supplementary Health Benefits program does subsidize hearing aids for those on social assistance, email [email protected]
Alberta: Under the Aids to Daily Living program eligibility is based on client household income, as per the AADL cost-share policy and includes those 65 plus. It is a cost-sharing program available to clients with limited income, based on the most recent CRA Notice of Assessment.
British Columbia: No coverage for adults, unless receiving social assistance or taking part in an Employment Program for Persons with Disabilities. http://www.at-bc.ca/
Northwest Territories: For those60 and older, up to $675. each eartoward cost of aid, plus $500 ear-fitting fee, and $30 for earmold every five years.
Nunavut: For those 60 and older, up to $500. per ear, $500 ear-fitting fee, and $30 earmold every five years. Administered by Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services, 100% coverage for NIHB clients who are eligible Inuit Land Claim Beneficiaries.
Yukon: Provides diagnostic audiological evaluations, hearing aid screenings, evaluation and dispensing, as well as hearing aid repairs, and listening devices to children and adults.
There are also programs available under Workmen’s Compensation programs. Information is available at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety at http://www.ccohs.ca
Veterans Affairs Canada has an extensive program which provides benefits outside the standard coverage. Some assistance might be available via the Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefit: There are also programs for First Nations and Inuit.
Other specialized devices are Cochlear implants and surgeries such as BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid). The latter is used to improve hearing in patients with chronic ear infections, congenital external auditory canal atresia (when the ear canal does not develop) or one-sided deafness and who cannot benefit from regular hearing aids.