Charges for lost hearing aids

Posted on: August 12, 2011

This article was updated 27th June 2013

Did you know that the NHS can charge you for the loss of a hearing aid or speech processor if your child loses it? No? Not many parents do it seems. Well, the NHS may legally recover the cost of repair or replacement of a hearing aid if there has clearly been misuse or carelessness. When the child is under 16 years old the responsibility for paying the costs rests with the parent or person with parental responsibility.

In reality this happens rarely because most audiologists understand that it is rather inevitable that small and delicate electronic equipment, that is used on a daily basis by children, will occasionally be lost or damaged. That’s life! It’s also pretty hard to prove that a child or their parents were negligent in losing the hearing aids. Trouble is I’m hearing from colleagues that audiology departments are coming under pressure to apply these charges in the current financial climate.

At the British Academy of Audiology Conference the results of an audit carried out across several audiology departments in the North West of England were presented. The results revealed that there was a wide variation in local policy on lost hearing aids and also that lost aids cost local departments a considerable sum, ranging from £6000 – £10,000 annually (“Is your Department Losing More Than Just Hearing Aids?” Ms Annie Woolley, University of Manchester, presented at BAA, Nov 2011). Nottingham Cochlear Implant Programme recently reported that 4% of their implanted children lose a speech processor yearly so that in the financial years 2008/2009, 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, the implant programme has replaced 48, 43 and 46 speech processors respectively. (Originally from “BITS and PIECES” (quarterly newsletter of CICS, Oct 2011) and reported in EURO-CIC Newsletter, February 2012).

So what do you need to know? Well, first of all the NHS cannot charge people without first convening a panel of at least three people who will need to meet to discuss the issues relating to the incident. You have a right to attend this meeting and express your views. The investigating committee must not be biased in favour of the NHS or audiology department, and previous incidences of loss or damage should not be considered as this may prejudice the case.

If the worst happens and they do decide to send you a bill they are only allowed to charge you the same amount that they paid for it. Such is the immense buying power of the NHS that for most hearing aids that’s between about £70-150 each. Beware however if your child is using a bone-anchored hearing aid or cochlear implant as their processors are considerably more expensive at between £1500 and £6000 each.

The NHS cannot charge families in receipt of certain benefits, and parents have a right to appeal the decision. If you find yourself in this position and need support navigating the process or appealing any charges do contact the National Deaf Children’s Society who will help. Also download a copy of their position paper Charging and insurance to cover the cost of replacing or repairing of all hearing and listening equipment provided by NHS and Local Authorities which has more detailed information.

Above all – take lots of care of your hearing equipment!

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