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HMRC internal manual

VAT Health

Hearing aid dispensers: Where and how are hearing aids dispensed?

Private hearing aids are supplied from:

  • a fully staffed and equipped centre (not dissimilar from a GP’s surgery);
  • an appointments centre; or
  • the client’s home.

A typical sequence of events in the dispensing of hearing aids is explained below:

1 The first interview during which the dispenser and the client discuss the hearing problem and the client’s medical history. The dispenser must consider whether the condition is one which will benefit from a hearing aid or whether the client should seek medical advice, for example, because of excessive wax, dizziness or tinnitus.
2 The hearing test
3 The second interview during which the dispenser and client discuss which device would be most suitable.
4 The taking of the mould
5 “Proforma invoice” - at this stage there will be a discussion of price. Dispensers must notify clients in writing of the cash price (including VAT) of the hearing aid, and any other charges. They must also set out the precise terms of any trial offered. If the client decides not to go ahead at this stage, there is often no charge.
6 The fitting - usually after a couple of weeks the hearing aid is made and the dispenser will fit it into, or behind, the client’s ear(s). The dispenser will also give advice on the use and maintenance of the aid and may give additional testing to evaluate the benefits received with the aid in place. Payment would normally be expected at this stage (a deposit having been taken earlier).
7 The third interview - Dispensers undertake to arrange a further consultation within 6 weeks of the supply, for no additional charge (although it is likely the appointment will be after about 2 weeks). This is to assess the client’s progress and offer any assistance required.
8 Free trial period - most dispensers then offer a trial period (often 30 days), during which the client can return the aid at any time if dissatisfied and receive a refund or a new hearing aid. It is quite common (about 15% of cases) for hearing aids to be returned while on free trial.
9 Help and advice - there is usually a continuing programme of help and advice and many dispensers will provide this for no further charge. The terms for this continuing service will vary from firm to firm, but are usually fairly informal. Many practices offer one year’s guarantee for repairs plus cleaning services and some practices now operate regular recall schemes for clients who may have had an aid for several years and would be considered to require a new one.
10 Repairs - these will need to be made periodically and those made out of the guarantee period will be charged for. Straightforward minor repairs and modifications can usually be carried out by the dispenser but otherwise the aid will need to be sent off to the manufacturer. (A UK “manufacturer” will normally have imported the electronic part of the device and assembled the aid, using the mould.)