Hearing Aids: Myth vs. Reality

Your hearing is important to us. And we know that different devices work best for different people. That’s why we have over 200 different types of hearing aids available to help you hear again.

You may have heard that we’ve made some changes to how we purchase hearing aids. We did that to make sure we’re getting the best technology at the best prices for you. 

These purchasing changes ruffled some feathers in the hearing aid industry. So let’s cut through the noise and lay out what this means for you.

Here are the most common myths, and the reality.

 

 Myth Reality
Coverage is being cut. Coverage for hearing aid devices has not been cut and will not be cut in the future.
The range of choice and number of devices available has been reduced. Over 200 types of hearing aids in a range of models and styles are available. We want you to hear, so we also consider requests for other hearing aid devices on a case-by-case basis.
Programs for people with hearing loss are being cut. We have a program of care specifically designed for people with occupational hearing loss to provide access to hearing services and hearing aids.

We know some are trying to scare you. And we’re sorry they are putting you through this. Unlike some vested interests, our motivation is not tied to profit. Our motivation is you and your hearing.

FAQs

Why did the WSIB issue a RFP for hearing aids?

Our contract with hearing aid manufacturers came to an end and we were required, under the Ontario Public Service Procurement Directive, to conduct a procurement initiative consistent with ensuring sound, ethical, consistent, open, fair, and transparent purchasing decisions.

Why did the WSIB only choose three hearing device manufacturers?

All manufacturers had an opportunity to compete in this procurement process, which included rigorous quality requirements. We did not enter the RFP process to reduce the number of manufacturers. We received submissions from several manufacturers and three of them, Bernafon, Phonak, and Sivantos, were successful in meeting our requirements detailed in the RFP document.

What criteria were used to determine which manufacturers were successful in the RFP?

In preparation for issuing this RFP, we considered the findings from the 2013 Value for Money Audit of our noise-induced hearing loss program. The audit recommended that the WSIB, “refine its strategic procurement strategy for hearing aids and services to ensure the availability of quality hearing aids to meet workers’ needs and secure the right products at a fair price.”

We also engaged a third party consultant with expertise in the hearing aid market to make recommendations on the types of hearing aids and key features that would meet peoples’ needs. The following key principles guided the RFP process:

  • A wide range of quality hearing devices
  • Geographic coverage across Ontario
  • Improved warranties
  • Access to bundled devices and products
  • Value for money
  • Improved supplier relationship management and administrative efficiencies
  • Pricing adjustment on existing models as new products emerge
  • Continuous education re: emerging technologies

What are the key changes in the WSIB’s hearing devices program?

Nothing has changed for the people we help who need to purchase or replace a hearing aid, and they can continue to deal with their local hearing aid provider for their hearing needs.

  • The $1,000 maximum allowable amount for hearing aids has been removed from our Operational Policy.
  • Once a person has entitlement to a hearing aid, we will consider specific hearing aids available from two categories; the primary category and the alternate category.
  • Hearing aids selected from the primary category do not require approval in advance and payment is accelerated.
  • For those people with specific clinical requirements that cannot be met by a hearing aid model from the primary category, the hearing aid provider can submit a  Hearing Aid Special Needs Request (PDF) form with clinical and medical rationale to get a hearing aid from the alternate category.

What types of hearing aids will be available? Does the WSIB have to approve the hearing aid?

Once a person is entitled to hearing aids benefits, we consider specific hearing aid models available from two categories; the primary category  and the alternate category.

Each of the three manufacturers contracted with us offer primary category hearing aid models that will meet the needs of most people with occupational hearing loss. No pre-approval is needed for hearing aid models selected from the primary category.

What happens if my needs cannot be met by the hearing aids in the primary category of hearing aids? Is there an exception process?

For people with specific clinical needs, we may consider offering a suitable hearing aid from our alternate category. The hearing aid provider must submit a Hearing Aid Special Needs Request form (PDF) to request a hearing aid model from the alternate category or from a manufacturer other than Bernafon, Phonak, or Sivantos. The request must include supporting clinical evidence and rationale explaining why a person’s needs cannot be met with a hearing aid model from the primary category.

Requests to provide a hearing aid that is not in the primary category or from a non-preferred supplier will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The hearing aid provider must complete the WSIB’s Hearing Aid Special Needs Request form, including the clinical and medical rationale for the hearing aid being recommended.

What if I have a hearing aid from a manufacturer that is not on the list of preferred providers and it needs to be repaired?

Repairs and remakes to hearing aids supplied by one of the three manufacturers (outside of warranty) are guided by specific repair and remake fees. If there a request to repair an existing product, we are guided by current industry pricing as it relates to dispenser and manufacturer repair charges.

If your hearing aid was purchased before January 9, 2017, we recommend that the hearing health provider contact us to discuss the repair. In some cases, it may be better to have you choose a new hearing aid from one of the three manufacturers.

Have there been any changes to the WSIB’s Noise-induced Hearing Loss Program of Care that was launched in August 2016?

No, the Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Program of Care will continue to apply for the first year after a new hearing aid is dispensed to people with noise-induced hearing loss. The Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Program of Care provides evidence-based hearing services to reduce the impact of hearing loss and was developed in collaboration with the Association of Hearing Instrument Practitioners of Ontario (AHIP) and the Ontario Association of Speech-language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) and staff.

The Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Program of Care covers all hearing services in the first year of hearing aid use, including:

  • a comprehensive assessment,
  • dispensing and fitting of the hearing aid,
  • follow-up care,
  • and education and support for people and their families or caregivers.