Workers with hearing loss stymied by hearing aid cuts

The following was written by Troy Shantz at The Sarnia Journal.

Rick Powell suffered his hearing loss while working as a labourer and factory worker. But getting a hearing aid that helps has been difficult since the government, through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, slashed the number of available providers.

Powell, a retiree, had five years of good service from his old hearing aids. But their renewal coincided with the rule change in January, and the new board-approved devices were useless, despite repeated adjustments at the audiologist’s. “I thought, I can’t wear these,” he said. Powell is one of about 500 WSIB claimants served by Sarnia’s Schneiker Audiology Services whose hearing has been severely impacted by the change.

“I wouldn’t start my mom off with an entry level product,” said owner Kathleen Schneiker, an audiologist with more than 20 years experience. “Somebody like Rick who’s been used to wearing advanced technology deserves to keep up with the same level,” she added.

“They shouldn’t be forced to move backwards in technology, based on the cuts the board is trying to make.” Previously, WSIB claimants were eligible for several thousand hearing aid options from 10 manufacturers and up to $1,000 per aid. That’s been reduced to three manufacturers, 200 types and a $500 cap. Schneiker said hearing loss cannot be corrected with a one-size-fits-all device.

“(Before) I would diagnose them and fit them with what I felt was the best. Now I’m limited to entry level, $500 hearing aids unless I fight.” And fight she has.

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