Mackay Hearing welcomes last week’s announcement that the ACCC is formally investigating reports of unscrupulous behaviour by some practitioners of Audiology. The ACCC’s investigation has been prompted by the findings of a public survey conducted in 2015, which revealed a range of consumer concerns regarding the sale of hearing devices (primarily hearing aids). The ACCC’s survey was triggered by revelations of unethical practice broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National program in 2014.
Audiology services are provided in both regulated and self-regulated environments. Fully subsidised services to eligible pensioners and veterans are provided by approved clinics (including Mackay Hearing). These services are regulated and audited by the Office of Hearing Services (OHS). Government funded hearing services are also provided through the government provider for children and young adults up to the age of 26.
Audiology services provided to people over the age of 26 and not eligible for the OHS program are only covered by ‘self-regulation’. Independent Audiologists Australia and Audiology Australia (professional bodies representing Audiologists) have developed codes of conduct, certification and accreditation programs, and a National Scope of Practice is currently being prepared. However, this self-regulation is currently non-binding, and practitioners can work outside these frameworks without consequence.
In a self-regulated environment, anybody can call themselves an Audiologist and sell hearing aids. Recent media stories have highlighted examples of consumers being persuaded to purchase expensive hearing aids with features far in excess of their actual needs. Concerns have also arisen that clinics owned by hearing aid manufacturers, or clinics working towards manufactures’ sales incentives, are not required to disclose this information. Consumers are also concerned that Audiologists in some clinics receive commissions for selling certain products, and that this can affect their professional opinion.
While Principal Audiologist Jodie Miles believes that ethical clinics and clinicians outweigh unethical ones, she fully supports the ACCC’s investigation and is hopeful that it provides further motivation for the development of regulation. “The ACCC investigation is an important first step to help define the problem, however only regulation will remove rogue traders and behaviours and restore public confidence in the Audiology profession” Jodie said.
Jodie was also keen to assure clients that services provided by Mackay Hearing are far-removed from the issues being investigated by the ACCC, given that Mackay Hearing:
• is independently owned, and can therefore offer a variety of products from different suppliers
• do not operate under suppliers’ sales targets or incentives
• only have clinicians that are fully qualified and accredited
• do not pay commissions to team members
• conduct generous appointment times – shorter appointment times would increase volume but compromise quality of service
• never pressure clients into purchasing hearing devices, in fact hearing devices are only offered to clients who are motivated
The ACCC is currently reviewing relevant material, and will likely provide the public with further information in the coming months.
The ACCC has also advised that consumers or clinicians can continue to raise concerns regarding the sale of hearing devices by contacting the ACCC’s Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or by visiting the ACCC’s website and lodging a complaint online.