Tribunal Member: Josephine Kelly

The applicant suffers from hearing loss and made a request to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for funding for high level technology hearing aids. The AAT was asked to review the NDIA’s decision to refuse the application. The AAT found that the decision hinged on what can be considered ‘reasonable and necessary’ under the rules of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).[1]

Hearing aids are classified as assistive technology (AT) under the NDIS. When asked to fund AT, the NDIA must consider other available forms of funding because the NDIS should not be considered the default provider of AT. Secondly, the NDIA considers whether the support enables the applicant to meet their goals and facilitate economic and social participation. Thirdly, the NDIA considers whether the hearing aids represent value for money and whether they are the minimum necessary support required for the applicant.

In making its original decision, the NDIA argued that there had not been proper investigation into other available sources of funding or of the potential effectiveness of hearing aids which are in a lower price range. However the AAT found that there was adequate investigation, deciding that the Commonwealth Hearing Services Program (HSP), another source of funding for hearing impairments, was not appropriate for the applicant.

The AAT also found, in contrast to the NDIA, that the hearing aids represented value for money because the costs of the support were reasonable in relation to the benefits achieved and the cost of alternative supports. This conclusion was strongly aided by the evidence given by several audiologists.

The AAT was satisfied that the hearing aids were the minimum necessary support required for the applicant, specifying that this was not a case of funding ‘bespoke wheels or other luxury finishes’.

The AAT substituted the decision and directed the NDIA to include a pair of the requested hearing aids as reasonable and necessary support. The hearing aids were ordered to be funded under NDIS.

Read the full decision on AustLII.

 

[1] Subsections 34(1) of the National Disability Insurance Act 2013 (Cth)