Organisation and finance
Italians with a hearing impairment are covered by the public national health system. This means that hearing-impaired Italians can receive free hearing aids - within certain limits. The public health system has an authorisation list of different models of hearing aids to choose from.
If the person chooses a specific type or model of hearing aid which is not on the list, the patient will have to pay the additional cost himself. The patient also needs the local health insurance authority (called Unita saniataria locale) to authorise the use of an alternative hearing aid in order to be granted the public subsidy.
In addition to the public system Italy has a complex system of health insurance companies and insurance services that patients can use to complement the public help. Membership of these insurance programs is paid for by the individual person.
Testing and treatment
Italians who suspect that they may be suffering from hearing impairment should consult their own family doctor first. The doctor may then send them on for further testing and diagnosis at a specialist or a hearing health clinic at a hospital.
The hearing aids will be dispensed from either the local health insurance authority (Unita saniataria locale), from the hospital's hearing health clinic or directly from the laboratory or dispenser who is responsible for fitting the hearing aid.
According to the Italian Ministry of Health, waiting lists do not exist. The ministry, however, cannot completely rule out the existence of some waiting periods.
Types of hearing aids
Until now, the public health system only accepts analogue hearing aids of the BTE or exterior type. If patients are diagnosed with hearing impairment in both ears, binaural fitting can be authorized and financed by the public system.
The Italian Ministry of Health is presently revising the authorisation list of hearing aids accepted for public, and thus free, dispensing. This revision may lead to an implementation of more modern types of digital hearing aids.
Batteries and service
All maintenance of publicly dispensed hearing aids is paid for by the local Italian health insurance system.
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