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HEARING WEEK: Technology access

March 2, 2017

Everyday, we see new technologies emerging and as it is Hearing Week let’s ask the question about where New Zealanders are sitting when it comes to using hearing aids and receiving cochlear implants.

Hearing Aids

According to the manufacturers and distributors of hearing aids, HIMADA, sales estimates in 2016 were 56,482 units. This implies there are 194,766 users of hearing aids in New Zealand. (1)

Our previous story of disadvantaged and at-risk groups, we heard Aroha's story about the cost of hearing aids. Aroha was sure she wouldn’t be able to afford her hearing aids and didn’t realise there are a range of hearing aids. There are five distinct styles of hearing devices that vary in size. Some are more appropriate for certain types of hearing loss and ear shapes, and others have more technological features.

Aroha was surprised by the various styles of hearing aids that vary from “in the ear” to “behind the ear”. The style is not what drives the price, but more the technology that sits within these devices. There are a few factors to consider when choosing the right hearing device:

  • 1.

    Your lifestyle influences the most suitable type of technology

  • 2.

    The degree and type of your hearing loss – influences both technology and style options available to you

  • 3.

    The specific situations you have trouble in – influences the selection of technology

  • 4.

    There are devices to suit every budget

From a pool of 45,100 people with hearing loss, 17,500 respondents were unable to obtain a t-switch type of hearing aid that provides access to sound via an electromagnetic telecoil or ‘loop’ that can be used to improve hearing in difficult listening situations such as a movie theatre or bank and (17,000), a volume control telephone (5,000) or other services (6,200).

Cochlear Implants

In New Zealand in 2016, the average wait for cochlear implants for adults is four years and research shows that those on waiting lists for cochlear implants are more likely to suffer from illnesses which are potentially mediated by stress than are people who have already received implants.

The authors concluded that reduction of the waiting list time for cochlear implantation could contribute to the reduction of stress-associated medical conditions in those who have lost their hearing and thereby reduce the burden on the health system. (2)


David Kent, Chairperson of Southern Hearing Charitable Trust says “The value of a cochlear implant is immeasurable as it is something which enhances a persons’ life, it brings them new sounds, which gives them new experiences and these all bring a new life!”

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[1]Listen Hear! New Zealand 2016 – www.nfd.org.nz

[2] Listen Hear! New Zealand 2016 – www.nfd.org.nz