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Hearing Services

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Overview

Hearing loss can have a significant impact on independence, participation in community life and the ability to communicate with others. Veterans with hearing loss can access services and support through a range of DVA programs, including the DVA Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP) and the DVA Tinnitus Program. Veterans can also access services through the Australian Government Hearing Services Program (the program) which is administered by the Department of Health.

The Australian Government recognises the importance of supporting people with hearing loss and provides high quality fully subsidised hearing devices and support through the Hearing Services Program. Under the Hearing Services Program, eligible DVA clients can select a high quality hearing device, at no cost, from an extensive range of over 200 high quality devices from the fully subsidised schedule. Device technology available on the fully subsidised schedule is constantly updated based on expert advice.

Depending on individual needs, support for eligible DVA clients may consist of:

  • a comprehensive hearing assessment;
  • an individual rehabilitation plan including establishing hearing goals and communication training;
  • advice and support about hearing loss;
  • if required, the fitting of a fully or partially subsidised hearing device;
  • if required, Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), free of charge from the RAP;
  • free maintenance of these devices; and
  • access to additional support for more complex hearing and communications needs, such as tinnitus.

In addition, every DVA client with hearing loss should have access to a choice of providers and can seek a second opinion. Every DVA client with hearing loss should be offered a choice of rehabilitation options and training, a family centred approach to communication and ongoing support for their hearing needs.

It is important to note that the price of a hearing device does not equate to quality. The range of subsidised devices and their relative monetary value is not an indicator of quality. It is the clinical assessment correctly matched to the most suitable device that is the critical determining factor to improved hearing outcomes, not the cost of the hearing device.

While the vast majority of people’s needs can be met by the free to client range and supporting services, hearing needs can be complex. There are processes to manage individuals’ exceptional circumstances where there are complex clinical needs.

Australian Government Hearing Services Program

Eligible veteran clients can access services and support to assist with the management of their hearing loss through the Hearing Services Program (the program). If a hearing assessment identifies they would benefit from a hearing device, they can choose from a range of extensive high quality devices at no cost.

Through the program, eligible veteran clients are issued a voucher every three years that enables them to have access to a range of comprehensive fully subsided hearing services and support, which are delivered through government contracted service providers. The program is administered by the Department of Health.

Hearing Services Program Eligibility

DVA veterans are eligible for the program if they are an Australian citizen or permanent resident 21 years or older and:

  • the holder of a DVA Health Card - All Conditions (Gold) or Totally & Permanently Incapacitated (Gold)
  • the holder of a DVA Health Card - Specific Conditions (White) that includes hearing loss or a hearing related condition (e.g. tinnitus);
  • the holder of a DVA Pensioner Concession Card; or
  • a spouse or dependent of a person in one of the above categories.

Further information regarding eligibility requirements is available on the Department of Health's Hearing Services website.

How to access the Hearing Services Program

The program’s website has an eligibility checker to assist veteran clients to confirm their eligibility. Once eligibility is confirmed, an application for the program can be completed using the ‘Apply Now’ button on the program’s website at www.hearingservices.gov.au. An application can also be completed by a contracted hearing services provider, who can apply online on their behalf. To finalise an application for the program, a medical certificate stating whether there are any contraindications to the fitting of a hearing device is required. 

How to find a hearing services provider

After applying for the program, veteran clients will receive a welcome pack with information about the program, which includes a list of up to 20 service providers in their local area. They can also search for a service provider on the program’s website by selecting ‘Locate a provider’. Alternatively, they can email hearing@health.gov.au or call 1800 500 726.

Types of hearing devices available

There are two categories of high quality hearing devices available through the Hearing Services Program - fully subsidised and partially subsidised devices.

Through the Hearing Services Program, fully subsidised hearing devices are available, at no cost to veterans. Currently, there are more than 200 high quality devices available in the fully subsidised range and these devices are updated regularly based on expert advice from the National Acoustics Laboratory.

Partially subsidised devices contain additional features that are not considered essential to manage a client’s hearing loss. The cost of these devices can be substantial. Service providers may receive commissions for selling certain hearing devices and some providers set sales targets for clinicians. Neither DVA nor the Department of Health will reimburse the additional cost of partially subsidised hearing devices to the veteran, nor its ongoing maintenance and battery supply. Veterans are encouraged to discuss any additional costs with their hearing services provider.

A hearing device can help someone with a hearing impairment; however it is critical to recognise that it is only one part of the overall management of hearing loss. A hearing device cannot cure the underlying permanent damage to hearing, and clients may continue to experience difficulties hearing in certain situations such as in a noisy restaurant.

Education, training, rehabilitation and importantly, a family centred approach, together will achieve the optimal communication outcome for clients. Contracted hearing services providers are able to assist clients to learn how these approaches will ensure they get the most of out of their hearing device.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently released a report and consumer guidance, encouraging purchasers of hearing services to be aware that hearing clinics are for the most part profit-making businesses, and to shop around for the best value hearing device that will meet hearing and communication outcomes:

Details of all available fully subsidised devices can be accessed from the Department of Health's Hearing Services website:

For general enquiries about the Hearing Services Program, contact the Department of Health on 1800 500 726 or email hearing@health.gov.au.

DVA Rehabilitation Appliances Program (RAP)

In addition to hearing devices, the DVA RAP provides access to devices and appliances that help maintain independence in the home. A range of items to assist eligible clients manage their hearing loss are available through the RAP including:

  • Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs), which provide additional hearing assistance in specific situations such as crowded environments, using the telephone or watching television;
  • Personal response systems, which when activated, make a loud noise and/or flashing light to alert people nearby. These require installation and are monitored by an emergency alarms service; and
  • Other ALDs such as Smoke Alarm Packages for the hearing impaired, sensor mats, telephone typewriters, and tinnitus maskers and inhibitors.

The availability of ALDs is particularly important for veterans with hearing loss as hearing experts advise that the combination of a radio frequency ALD (such as that available through RAP) worn in conjunction with hearing aids provide superior performance in noisy environments and over distances than is possible from any hearing device alone. ALD wireless remote microphone units give up to a 15dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratio when used correctly in conjunction with a hearing device. This compares to hearing devices with directional microphones, available on the program’s current fully subsidised and partially subsidised device schedules, which generally provide around 2-3 dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratio.

Some ALDs on the RAP schedule require prior approval, and not all hearing service providers are aware that these are available for eligible veterans. If you have not already done so, we encourage you to speak with your hearing service provider about this option.

RAP ALDs and tinnitus items can be viewed in the RAP National Schedule of Equipment. Available items and are listed between item numbers AA02-AA17 (pg. 1-4) and AK02-AK03 (pg. 21).

To access ALDs under RAP, your hearing services provider can contact the RAP team on 1300 550 457 (Metro) or 1800 550 457 (regional).

For general information about the RAP program access the DVA Factsheet HSV107 - Rehabilitation Appliances Program.

DVA Tinnitus Treatment Pathway

Tinnitus is a noise noticeable in the head or ears without any external cause. Many people notice tinnitus but for some it can be annoying and for a few it can be very disturbing. For eligible veterans with mild tinnitus and hearing loss it is recommended, in the first instance, that they are fitted with hearing devices.

For disturbing tinnitus, or tinnitus that remains troublesome after a hearing device has been fitted, DVA recommends that your hearing services provider write to your medical practitioner suggesting referral to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. After a complete investigation, the ENT specialist can present recommendations to DVA regarding a program of tinnitus therapy. Such programs involve counselling and commitment to working with a therapist over several appointments.

Ex-Service Organisation Round Table (ESORT) Hearing Services Working Group

DVA established a Hearing Services Working Group (HSWG) in 2016 under the ESORT, a key veteran community consultative body, to consider issues about delivery of hearing services to DVA clients.  The HSWG was chaired by the Deputy President of the Repatriation Commission and included representatives from DVA, Ex-Service Organisations, the Department of Health and leading hearing industry experts.

A summary of the ESORT HSWG discussions and decisions can be found on the DVA website.

External programs

If you are not eligible for any of the above listed programs, you may still be able to obtain assistance through your State or Territory government or through hearing device banks. Further information about services outside the programs can be found on the Hearing Services website.

Factsheets about Hearing Services

A comprehensive overview of hearing services available for veterans is available from the Department of Health's Hearing Services website.

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