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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 13 - 19  > Public subsidy for expensive hearing aids needed
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2019 March 13 - 19 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Public subsidy for expensive hearing aids needed

March 18, 2019

Out of 14.3 million persons with hearing loss in Japan, those who have a hearing aid amount to only about 2.1 million because proper hearing aids are unaffordable for most pensioners.

The price ranges from 30,000 yen for one ear up to about 500,000 yen for both ears, depending on the shape and functions. The average cost in 2016 was 110,000 yen for one ear and 200,000 yen for both ears, according to the Japan Hearing Instruments Manufacturers Association (JHIMA).

There is a public assistive device subsidy program under which hard-of-hearing people can buy a hearing aid at 10% of the normal price. To be eligible for this program, they must be persons with a severe hearing loss in both ears and must have a "physically-disabled" identification card. The JHIMA says that the percentage of persons with severe hearing loss is only 8% of the total number of hearing-impaired individuals.

The WHO recommends wearing a hearing aid for persons with a hearing level of an average of 41dB. However, in Japan, the benchmark is more than 70dB.

Only after receiving a "physically-disabled" identification card can they apply for the assistive device subsidy. Only 12% of hearing aid owners are public subsidy recipients in Japan.

In the U.S., Germany, France, and the U.K. where there is a more generous public subsidy service, the rate of the hearing aid users is twice or three times higher than in Japan.

On February 26 in a Hyogo prefectural assembly meeting, Japanese Communist Party assemblyperson Isomi Keiko demanded the creation of the prefecture's own hearing aid subsidy scheme as well as the improvement of the existing program.

Hyogo Governor Ido Toshizo in reply said, "I will request the central government to expand the subsidy program. Taking into consideration the state response, the prefectural government will deal with it."

Hearing reduction leads to reduced cognitive function. Harada Keijiro, the head of an association on visually disabled in Nishinomiya City, said, "Persons with impaired vision also become hard of hearing as we get older. For us, what we hear is vital. Affordable and accessible hearing aids are a pressing human rights issue."
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