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February 17, 2005

Great variations in national hearing aid services

Expenditures for hearing aid services and the availability of publicly funded hearing aids vary widely from one Northern European country to the other, according to a survey comparing national services in the United Kingdom, Finland and Denmark.

The differences in national expenditures for hearing aids are considerable. Denmark spends ?7.31 per capita, three times the level in Finland and four times the level in the UK.

The variation in expenditure is partially due to the availability for individual hearing impaired patients of two hearing aids. In Denmark, 68 percent of hearing aid users are provided hearing aids for both ears. In the UK, this is the case for just 18 percent and in Finland just 5 percent of the patients.

Another explanation for the particularly low expenditures in the UK, according to the researchers, is that only 1.3 percent of the hearing impaired patients receive digital hearing aids. In Finland, 17 percent of the hearing aids provided are digital, as is 52 percent of the publicly funded hearing aids in Denmark.

The relatively high expenditure in Denmark is also due to the frequency of hearing aid dispensing. Denmark ranks highest in this category. Eleven in every 1,000 Danes receive new hearing aids in a year. In the UK and Finland, the frequency is 6 in 1,000 and just 3 in 1,000, respectively.

On average, Danes are treated with hearing aids at a hearing loss of 31.2 dB in the better ear, while the Finns reach an average hearing loss of 44.6 dB. In the UK, the average hearing loss for initial hearing aid treatment is estimated at 40 dB.

Source: Survey of Adult Hearing Aid Service Expenditure and Provision in Denmark, Finland and the UK. Audiological Medicine 2003, no. 2.

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