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The need for coverage for hearing aids for those who can not afford them

 The ability to hear is very important.   It is particularly important for seniors who are older and develop hearing loss with age.   Without a hearing aid, such seniors can hear very little and can become isolated and unable to communicate well with family and friends.   On May 26th, I read a petition calling for coverage of hearing aids for those who cannot afford them.  The Petition, as read in the legislature, is below.

Petition – Hearing Aids

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I wish to present the following petition to the Legislative Assembly.

      The background to this petition is as follows:

      A hearing aid is a battery-powered electronic device designed to improve an individual's ability to perceive sound. Worn in or behind a person's ear, they make some sounds louder, helping people hear better when it's quiet and when it's noisy.

      People who suffer hearing loss, whether due to aging, illness, employment or accident, not only lose the ability to communicate effectively with friends, family or colleagues, they also can experience un­employ­ment, social isolation and struggles with mental health.

      Hearing loss can impact the safety of an in­dividual with hearing loss, as it affects the ability to hear cars coming, safety alarms, call 911, et cetera.

      A global com­mis­sion on the state of the research for dementia care and pre­ven­tion released an updated consensus report in July 2020, identifying 12 key risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline. The strongest risk factor that was indicated was hearing loss. It's calculated that up to 80 per–8 per cent of the total number of dementia cases could potentially be avoided with manage­ment of hearing loss.

      Hearing aids are therefore essential to the mental health and wellbeing of Manitobans, especially to those at sig­ni­fi­cant risk of dementia, Alzheimer's, a disorder of the brain affecting cognition in the ever-growing senior popu­la­tion.

      Audiologists are health-care pro­fes­sionals who help patients decide which kind of hearing aid will work best for them based on the type of hearing loss, patient's age and ability to manage small devices, lifestyle and ability to afford.

      The cost of hearing aids can be prohibitive to many Manitobans, depending on their income and circum­stances. Hearing aids cost on average $995 to $4,000 per ear. And many pro­fes­sionals say the hear­ing aids only work at their best for five years.

      Manitoba residents under the age of 18 who require a hearing aid, as prescribed by an otolaryn­gologist or audiologist, will receive either an 80 per cent reimbursement from Manitoba Health or a fixed amount for an analog device up to a max­imum of $500 per ear, or 80 per cent of a fixed amount for a digital or analog programmable device up to a max­imum of $1,800. However, this reimbursement is not available to Manitobans who need the device who are over the age of 18, which will result in financial hardship for many young people entering the work­force, students and for families. In addition, seniors repre­sen­ting 14.3 per cent of Manitoba's popu­la­tion are not eligible for reimbursement despite being the group most likely in need of a hearing aid.

      Most insurance companies only provide a min­imal partial cost of a hearing aid and many Manitobans, especially retired persons, old-age pen­sioners and other low-income earners do not have access to health-insurance plans.

      The Province of Quebec's hearing devices pro­gram covers all costs related to hearing aids and assistive listening devices, including the purchase, repair and re­place­ment.

      Alberta offers subsidies to all seniors 65 and over and low-income adults once every five years.

      New Brunswick provides coverage for the pur­chase and maintenance not covered by other agencies or private health insurance plans as well as assist­ance for those for whom the purchase would cause finan­cial hardship.

      Manitobans over age 18 are only eligible for sup­port for hearing aids if they're receiving Em­ploy­ment and Income Assist­ance and the reimbursement only provides a maximum of $500 per ear.

      We petition the Legis­lative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to consider hear­ing loss as a medical treatment under Manitoba Health.

      To urge the prov­incial gov­ern­ment to provide income-based coverage for hearing aids to all who need them, as hearing has been proven to be essential to Manitobans' cognitive, mental and social health and well-being.

      Signed by Gladys Neilsen, Skiler Polkowski, Josiah Polkowski and many, many others.

      Thank you.


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