Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (2660)

John Curran

Question:

2660. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review the hearing aid grant in view of the fact that twice as many persons who have a medical card have a hearing aid compared to persons who do not have a medical card; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland prescribes hearing aids at roughly 50% of the rate per head of population compared to the UK; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31535/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Department’s Medical Appliance scheme, which provides grants to assist in the purchase of hearing aids, is available to those who have the required number of PRSI contributions and their dependant spouse/partners. The numbers claiming under the scheme over recent years and the payments made by my Department bear testimony to the important contribution the scheme is making for PRSI contributors who are experiencing hearing loss.

In 2018, some 14,689 grants, at a cost of €12.74m were provided; this represents a 53% increase in the number of grants provided since 2016 and a 95% increase since 2009. The increase in 2018 over 2016 is due in part to the extension of the scheme to the self-employed for the first time in March 2017.

The Department regularly reviews the grant amount to ensure it reflects the cost of the variety of devices and price ranges on the market.

The parallel HSE scheme provides digital hearing aids, at no cost to the customer, and is available to those of all ages with medical card eligibility, which would include the vast majority of the over 70’s age group. This availability may well be a factor in the increased uptake under the HSE scheme, and may also be reflected in the higher uptake in the UK, were hearing aids are also available free of charge under the NHS scheme.

Any increase in the grant or variation in the percentage contribution towards hearing aids can only be considered at Budget time and in the context of available funds.