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$15k for coffee. Sorry, no hearing aid upgrade!


The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is being criticised by participants after it refused to fund $10,000 for a hearing aid upgrade for a profoundly deaf man and instead gave him $15,000 for social outings.

Mr Dobson, who lives in Rockhampton in central Queensland, had his first cochlear implants 15 years ago, and every few years the outside hearing aids — speech processors — need to be replaced. Last year, a new speech processor came on the market; it is the first of its kind that can connect to a smart phone, so phone calls and music can be streamed directly to the processor. It also has two microphones and is much smaller and lighter than its predecessor.

Mr Dobson's audiologist recommended the upgrade, and private health insurance upgraded one speech processor, but funding could not extend to upgrading the second processor. In the meantime, Mr Dobson was invited to join the NDIS and the idea was to have the second speech processor funded through the scheme.

Mrs Dobson got in touch with the NDIS and they initially gave Mr Dobson $30,000 worth of funding, of which a third was to go to upgrading the speech processor, $15,000 for "core supports" and $5,000 for speech pathology. But shortly after receiving that letter, the NDIS phoned Mrs Dobson and withdrew funding for the speech processor.

The agency told her that money could not be used to upgrade the speech processor because under NDIS guidelines, technology cannot be replaced if it is less than five years old.

Instead, it continued to fund $15,000 for "core supports" which included social outings, like going out for a coffee or to a movie, Mrs Dobson said.

"But we didn't ask for that funding; we only asked for up to $10,000 for the upgrade of the speech processor," she said.

Mrs Dobson said her son now had an imbalance with different technology on each side of his head. She said she was concerned there would be many other people out there in similar circumstances to Mr Dobson's also being rejected by the NDIS.

Mrs Dobson appealed the decision, but it was rejected again. She was told that she could appeal it, but the process was too exhausting.

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