The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides aural services, including hearing tests and hearing aids, to eligible people. In general, aural services are provided by the HSE's own professionals but in some cases may be provided by private practitioners.
You will normally be referred by your family doctor (GP) to an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist for a hearing test. It may also be possible to contact your hearing aid clinic or health centre directly and request a hearing test. Hearing tests involve an examination of your ear by the audiologist or ENT specialist. You will then be asked to put on headphones and listen to sounds at different pitches so the audiologist can find the level at which you can no longer hear.
Hearing tests can also be conducted on infants and very young children who are unable to wear headphones or communicate that they cannot hear sounds. Tests on infants or young children are similar to those conducted on adults (they are non-invasive) and are carried out using specialist sonar equipment. The level of the child's hearing is then measured and any corrective action is prescribed.
If you have a medical card or belong to the eligible groups mentioned below, you can obtain your hearing aid free of charge. If you do not have a medical card, your hearing aid clinic will put you in touch with suppliers of hearing aids and you will have to pay for your hearing aid yourself.
Treatment Benefit Scheme
Treatment Benefit is a scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection that provides dental, optical and aural services to insured workers and retired people who have the required number of PRSI contributions.
Hearing aids may be provided by suppliers who have a contract with the Department of Social Protection. The Department pays half the cost of a hearing aid subject to a fixed maximum for each hearing aid every 4 years. It also pays half the cost of repairs to hearing aids.
Aural services are available free of charge to:
- Medical card holders and their dependants
- People with Hepatitis C who have a Health Amendment Act Card
- Pre-school children and primary school children referred from child health service and school health service examinations
Children who are discovered to have hearing problems at the child or school health examinations are referred to the appropriate consultant for treatment. If this treatment is carried out at the out-patient department of a public hospital, the service is free and no hospital charges have to be paid.
Medical card holders can obtain a replacement hearing aid after 2 years but if your hearing aid is damaged or broken you can get a replacement before the end of the 2-year period.
If you do not have a medical card, the Treatment Benefit Scheme may cover you and your dependent spouse for some of the cost of hearing aids. You may also be able to claim tax relief for medical expenses incurred.
There is no charge for a hearing test at a health centre or at a Local Health Office or public hospital outpatient clinic. You may have to pay for a hearing aid unless you are among the eligible groups mentioned above or you have enough social insurance contributions to qualify under the Treatment Benefit Scheme.
How to apply
Contact your Local Health Office or hearing aid clinic for an appointment. Adults with hearing problems may be referred by their GP to an appropriate consultant or HSE hearing aid clinic. The hearing aid clinic may supply hearing aids directly or arrange for their supply by a private practitioner. Repairs to hearing aids may also be carried out at the hearing aid clinic.