Organisation and finance
In Ireland all children and young people in vocational training are entitled to receive free audiology services - including testing, provision of hearing aids and repair services. Adults in a low-income category can obtain a medical card from their local regional Health Board which entitles them to receive these services for free. About 35 per cent of the Irish population are entitled to free audiology services.
The part of the population which is not covered by the above categories must pay for audiology services from a private dispenser. However, those in need may receive a grant of £300 to pay part of the costs involved. This grant is only available to persons who have been in 'Insurable Employment' for a minimum period of approximately three years.
Testing and treatment
If a person has hearing problems the first thing to do is to visit the family doctor (GP) who will refer the patient, provided that he/she has a medical card, to one of the public hearing health centres for further testing and provision of hearing aids. Other patients will be referred to private health centres.
Waiting lists in the public system vary depending on the region, but generally, patients have to wait between two and four months for the hearing test and approximately one month more before receiving the hearing aid. A few patients have to wait up to six months to take a hearing test due to the lack of qualified staff.
There are no waiting lists in the private system.
Types of hearing aids
The public system primarily dispenses analogue hearing aids, however in some cases also programmable hearing aids. In 2002, modern digital hearing aids will be introduced.
The private hearing aid dispensers already offer digital hearing aids.
Batteries and service
After receiving a hearing aid, batteries and servicing are free of charge to everybody. A medical card is not required. In most cases, replacement hearing aids are also free of charge.