WSIB Hearing Devices – Questions and Answers

Why did the WSIB issue its RFP for Hearing Aids?

The WSIB’s 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 manufacturers to provide hearing devices for WSIB clients?

All manufacturers had an opportunity to compete in this procurement process, which included rigorous quality requirements. WSIB did not enter the RFP process with the intent 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 as detailed in the RFP document.

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

In preparation for issuing this RFP, the WSIB considered the findings from the 2013 Value for Money Audit of our Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) 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.” 

The WSIB 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 workers’ 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

Policy and Practice Changes

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

Nothing has changed for injured workers requiring the purchase or replacement of a hearing aid, and they can continue to deal with their local hearing aid provider regarding all their hearing needs.

  • The $1000 maximum allowable amount for hearing aids has been removed from the WSIB’s Operational Policy.
  • Once a worker has entitlement to a hearing aid, the WSIB considers 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 expedited.
  • For those workers 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 with clinical and medical rationale to obtain a hearing aid from the alternate category.

Choice and Selection of Hearing Devices

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

Once a worker has entitlement to hearing aids, the WSIB considers specific hearing aid models available from two categories; the primary category and the alternate category.

Each of the three manufacturers contracted with the WSIB offers primary category hearing aid models that will meet the needs of most workers with occupational hearing loss. No pre-approval will be required for hearing aid models selected from the primary category.

What happens if a WSIB client’s needs cannot be met by the hearing aids in the WSIB’s primary category? Is there an exception process?

For those workers with specific clinical requirements, the WSIB may consider offering a suitable hearing aid from its alternate category. The hearing aid provider must submit a Hearing Aid Special Needs Request form 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 the worker’s needs cannot be met with a hearing aid model from the primary category.

Requests to provide a WSIB client with 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 a worker has a hearing aid from a manufacturer that is not on the list of the 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.
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  • If there is a need to repair an existing hearing aid purchased prior to January 9, 2017, it is recommended that the hearing health provider contact WSIB to discuss the repair.  In some scenarios, it may be preferable to have the worker choose a new hearing aid from one of the three manufacturers. 
  • If there a request to repair the existing product, WSIB is guided by current industry pricing as it relates to dispenser and manufacturer repair charges.

Have there been any changes to the WSIB’s NIHL Program of Care that was launched in August 2016?

No, the Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) Program of Care (POC) will continue to apply for the first year after a new hearing aid is dispensed for workers with NIHL. The NIHL POC 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 NIHL POC 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 workers and their families or caregivers.