National Seniors is calling on the Federal Government to take action to prevent the exploitation of older Australians by unscrupulous operators in the hearing aid industry.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke will tell the Inquiry into the Hearing Health and Wellbeing of Australia, sitting in Brisbane tomorrow, that after two investigations of the industry in a decade, it is time to clean up problems that the ACCC has labelled scams.
Mr Henschke says one in six Australians have hearing loss, and the figure will rise to one in four by 2050.
National Seniors believes eligibility for free or subsidised hearing services must be extended to more seniors, along with better access to hearing aid banks as an alternative to public and private hearing services.
“We’ve been told some consumer horror stories,” Mr Henschke said.
“One member knew someone who re-mortgaged his house to buy $11,000 in hearing aids that were unsatisfactory and un-refundable. Another told of products that cost as much as $15,000 and last only five to 10 years before needing replacement.
“At the same time we also heard of people buying products that do the job at a fraction of the price.
“We are very disappointed with the lack of competition and price transparency in the market for hearing aids.
“Our members have told us they often feel pressured into purchasing expensive hearing aids without any understanding of the cost benefit of the product being sold. Many are being exploited by the unconscionable actions of retailers and sales people driven by commissions, rather than public health considerations.”
Mr Henschke said acquiring a hearing aid was an essential part of healthcare and a preventative measure, not a “lifestyle choice”.
“Having a hearing aid can save money overall by reducing health costs connected with social isolation and cognitive decline,” Mr Henschke said. “We also know poor hearing can cause an increased rate of falls.
“This is the second government inquiry in the past decade that’s heard of major problems in hearing health. The ACCC says consumers are being scammed by commission-driven sales people. It’s time the government listened and cleaned up these problems in the best interests of all Australians.”