National Seniors has welcomed the hearing health inquiry report, Still waiting to be heard, released this week, calling on the Federal Government to adopt its key recommendations without delay.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said after two investigations of the industry in a decade, the government needed to clean up problems the ACCC had labelled scams.
Mr Henschke said one in six Australians had hearing loss, and the figure would rise to one in four by 2050.
One of the key recommendations was to crackdown on use of commissions in the hearing aid industry.
“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. We’ve been told of people questioning a price and having it suddenly drop by thousands.
“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.”
National Seniors also supported recommendations that hearing become a national health priority, with a national strategy; greater education and an awareness campaign encouraging people experiencing hearing loss to seek help; and a review of hearing services provided to residents of aged care facilities.
Mr Henschke said National Seniors agreed with the inquiry report that in many respects, Australia was a leader in supporting those with a hearing loss. But it also agreed that much more could be done, especially for older people who were often on extremely limited incomes and more vulnerable to scams and rip-offs.
“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,” he said.
“Many are being exploited by the unconscionable actions of retailers and sales people driven by commissions, rather than public health considerations.”
Mr Henschke said National Seniors agreed with the inquiry report that the time for action was well overdue.
While some of the bi-partisan 2010 Senate Committee report recommendations had been implemented in the past seven years, many had not. The inquiry held this year had heard similar evidence and drawn similar conclusions.
“We know there is a lot of frustration among those with hearing loss and in the medical and support community. It’s time the government got on with fixing the situation,” he said.
Mr Henschke said the hearing inquiry report had estimated hearing loss cost the Australian economy $33 billion per year.
“But for those who experience hearing loss, the most profound impact can be the effect on their everyday lives and relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues," the report said.
Mr Henschke thanked members for sharing their stories and experiences with National Seniors.
“These were presented as part of our submission to the inquiry and reinforced in the hearing held in Brisbane in April,” he said.
The full Report on the Inquiry into the Hearing Health and Wellbeing of Australia can be read here.