In Japan, there is a government-mandated financial support system to help hearing-handicapped patients. In this welfare law, patients with severe hearing loss are categorized into three grades according to severity of hearing disturbance. Patients in each grade have the right to obtain financial support. Obtaining financial aid is a two-step process. First, the patient must apply for a certificate or license indicating that he/she is indeed hearing handicapped. It usually takes a few weeks to receive this license. Second, the patient must complete a financial support application form, which takes about one month for government approval. A doctor must sign both of these application forms. Between January 2005 and April 2006, we surveyed patients consulting our office for hearing aid counseling to assess the current situation and satisfaction of patients who bought hearing aids using governmental financial support. The patients graded their experience on a 5-point satisfaction scale. Among the eighty-nine patients who consulted our office, 22 (24.7%) patients applied for support; all 22 of these patients qualified as having a severe hearing-handicap. The average ages of patients certified as hearing handicapped and patients not certified as hearing handicapped were 80.9±7.7 years and 75.1±23.3 years, respectively. It took, on average, another 49 days to obtain financial support. Patients receiving governmental financial support rated their satisfaction significantly higher than did patients who did not receive support. The average amount of financial support was 40,736 yen ($340). A small amount of financial support can increase patient satisfaction. To promote the government-mandated financial support system for the hearing handicapped, doctors should show more interest in this law. Doctors should also actively guide and encourage certified patients in applying for governmental financial support for hearing aids, all with long-term goal of helping these patients achieve a better quality of life.
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