Former Ireland rugby captain Rory Best has teamed up with Specsavers to support its Healthy Hearing campaign, launched in celebration of important PRSI changes.
To mark the new benefits, which see thousands of people now qualify for free hearing aids at Specsavers, the popular opticians and audiologists has pledged to test and screen a quarter of a million people over the next two years.
An Irish role model, who at times struggles with his own hearing, Rory Best was keen to support Specsavers and highlight the importance of taking a proactive approach to hearing loss.
"For the last few years I have been very mindful of my hearing, and today would consider my hearing health to be an important part of my overall health check," he said. "A couple of years ago I found myself becoming more aware of my hearing, perhaps struggling a bit in certain situations, so I decided to have it checked out. While I was OK for the most part, I did have issues with certain sounds or pitches, so it’s now just something that I keep an active eye on with an annual hearing test at Specsavers."
Hearing loss is experienced by around one in six Irish adults and affects people of all ages. Your hearing changes over time and for different reasons, which is why people experience different types of loss at different stages in life. Despite this, many people often ignore the signs of hearing loss, concerned about being judged by others.
Rory Best added: "Hearing loss affects so many people, whether it’s themselves or their loved ones, so I’m thrilled that Specsavers has asked me to come on board to support its campaign to raise awareness about the new PRSI benefits. These benefits will not only see hearing aids become more accessible, but the fact that some are for free is just incredible."
Speaking about Specsavers' mission to screen and test a quarter of a million people, he added: "I think the pledge is exactly what is needed to encourage a change in behaviour, and I hope we can inspire people to be more proactive. I’ve already been in for my annual check-up so am proud to help Specsavers reach this ambitious target and will be encouraging friends and family to get involved too.
"If you have an issue with your eyes, you see an optician about glasses, so why doesn’t the same apply to hearing? The test is straightforward, fuss free, and non-invasive."
Research commissioned by Specsavers revealed that almost half of Irish adults (47 per cent ) regularly worry about losing their hearing, yet only 25 per cent of people would act quickly (within a week ) if they noticed a change in their hearing. Meanwhile 69 per cent of Irish adults have not had their hearing tested in the last five years.
Concern over cost (62 per cent ) is one of the big deterrents to wearing hearing aids. However, this no longer needs to be a concern for many thanks to the new PRSI changes.
Speaking about the PRSI campaign, Specsavers audiology chairperson, Orla Walsh, said: "We are on a mission to break down the stigma often associated with hearing loss and start having a more honest and open conversation about this important health issue.
"Unfortunately, the perceived cost of hearing aids and outdated stigmas can deter people from seeking help and they do not realise the life changing benefits they can offer. This is why we launched our Healthy Hearing Month with a pledge to test and screen over a quarter of a million of the Irish population.
Following changes to the PRSI scheme by the Department of Social Protection, those eligible for the benefit can now avail of a pair of hearing aids up to the value of €1,000, or put their PRSI contribution towards the cost of a more expensive pair of hearing aids at Specsavers. Even with a medical card, many will also have PRSI entitlements which would make them eligible for a free pair of hearing aids. With hearing aids available from just €600 at Specsavers, this is the first time people can claim free hearing aids under the scheme.
For more information about using your PRSI treatment benefit entitlement available at Specsavers, speak to your local store or check out www.specsavers.ie/hearing/hearing-aids/prsi-treatments-benefit You can also make an appointment online.