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Four weeks enough consultation over hearing - Smith

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nick Smith
Nick Smith

Wellington, June 18 NZPA - ACC Minister Nick Smith says he is "quite satisfied" that four weeks is an adequate consultation period for changes to ACC allowances for people with hearing loss.

New Zealand Audiological Society president Lesley Hindmarsh said the Government was proposing changes to the full funding of hearing aids for people who lost their hearing because of exposure to noise.

ACC covers the cost of a hearing assessment and hearing aids for people who lost their hearing due to exposure to noise, no matter their age.

Mrs Hindmarsh said the proposed change would impact significantly on the elderly.

"Many retirees have less money in their pockets as they get older...noise induced hearing loss is a permanent disability, it doesn't get fixed as you get older."

New Zealanders subject to noisy workplaces in the 60s, 70s and 80s were now "paying the price for poor noise management in the workplace", Mrs Hindmarsh said.

She said the change showed a "ruthlessness" towards people with hearing loss, particularly on top of cuts to ACC cover for people with less than six percent hearing loss which take effect on July 1.

The Government introduced a six percent threshold for ACC funding for people with hearing loss.

Dr Smith said he was satisfied that four weeks was an adequate period.

Four weeks was the minimum period required under legislation before the previous Labour government removed the four-week minimum and allowed a lesser period, he said.

The proportionment of hearing lost costs was "well-signalled" by Cabinet last year, he said.

The consultation was on how the proportionment was done.

The cost of hearing claims has increased from about $20 million a year to $80m, Dr Smith said.

An example of waste was batteries for hearing aids being sent out automatically. Batteries were now given out on request and costs had dropped by 45 percent.

"I don't think an increase from about $20m a year to $80m a year is fair on those who pay the levies in ACC."

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