Cochlear implants are expensive.
In Australia, they cost almost AUD$25,000-$30,000. And that’s just for the surgery and implant, not for the rehabilitation and software ‘mapping’.
Luckily, I had private health insurance, which meant the entire amount was covered, except for one payment of AUD$250 night in hospital as excess. I was also really lucky that my doctor and my anaesthetist didn’t charge me the regular ‘gap’, which can be a couple a thousand dollars (thanks guys – you really made my day).
But if I hadn’t had private health insurance I would have had to pay the full amount, or go on the waiting list at the Sydney Cochlear Implant Centre (SCIC).
SCIC receives VERY limited funding from the NSW Health Department for a limited number of cochlear implants for public patients – something like 44 a year.
And considering that 1 in 6 people in Australia have some degree of hearing loss, that numbers seems extremely, pitifully small!
If you are interested, read a request by Liberal member Mr ANTHONY ROBERTS (Lane Cove), Legislative Assembly, 5 March 2009 for more funding for the cochlear implant centre from the government – and then skip to the bottom of this very moving speech, and see how many voted NO! I couldn’t believe it. Shame on them.
Jillian Skinner has been a very vocal supporter of cochlear implants, and good on her. Read a short article here about the lack of funding given
by the current state government.
In America cochlear implants cost up to US$40,000, and I am not sure that they are covered by any sort of national medical scheme. Being deaf in America would suck.
But get this – and this is the thing that annoys me most.
So I get a cochlear implant for $25,000, and it cost me $250. It is regarded as a prosthesis.
My hearing aids cost me AUD$4,000 … each. And they are regarded by the government as a luxury item.
So, my private health fund gives me back … AUD$600 all up for those hearing aids, and then tell me I can’t get new ones again for several years, even if they break, or I lose them, so I can ‘re-earn’ my health fund points. Hearing aids last up to 5 years.
So hearing aids were more expensive for me to get – costing AUD$7,400, plus batteries, plus audiology appointments, than a cochlear implant.
It is actually cheaper for the people of Australia to get cochlear implants, whether they need them or not – but only if they win the ridiculous race that the current government makes us run – to be one of only 44 people in Australia that will be helped financially to hear again. And 1 in 6 people in Australia have some form of hearing loss. Check out the Access Economics ‘Listen Hear’ report for that figure.
It is ridiculous, but Australia’s hearing health system is operating on an antiquated model – nothing has changed much since they developed the system in the 1940s, following the world wars, and providing for the many new ‘noise-deafened’ veterans.
In fact – it is cheaper for me to buy a return ticket to the UK, stay in London for a week, chilling out, and get a pair of hearing aids free through the UK’s National Health Service, and then fly home – cheaper than buying them here in Australia.
Something is wrong with this model. And the Labor government is in charge of it. And they are doing nothing about it.
I know because I have been to see the Minister in charge of this portfolio, not once, not twice, not three times, but I have been about 5 times to tell them that their hearing health set up is not working, and is not fair.
One day it will change, but only because people like me – the ones who actually use the technology, and need it – make a racket about it.