Universal Hearing Health Care: Russia Today more than 14 million people with hearing loss, including 1 million children, live in the Russian Federation, according to epidemiological studies. The Soviet Union initiated the audiological services system in 1952 by a legislative act of the Ministry of Public Health Care. Until 1979 audiological and hearing aid fitting ... World Beat
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World Beat  |   December 01, 2008
Universal Hearing Health Care: Russia
Author Notes
  • George A. Tavartkiladze, MD, PhD, is director of the National Research Center for Audiology and Hearing Research in Moscow, Russia.
    George A. Tavartkiladze, MD, PhD, is director of the National Research Center for Audiology and Hearing Research in Moscow, Russia.×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / International & Global / World Beat
World Beat   |   December 01, 2008
Universal Hearing Health Care: Russia
The ASHA Leader, December 2008, Vol. 13, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.WB6.13172008.18
The ASHA Leader, December 2008, Vol. 13, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.WB6.13172008.18
Today more than 14 million people with hearing loss, including 1 million children, live in the Russian Federation, according to epidemiological studies.
The Soviet Union initiated the audiological services system in 1952 by a legislative act of the Ministry of Public Health Care. Until 1979 audiological and hearing aid fitting services were separate, making service delivery challenging. The Ministry of Public Health Care supervised audiological services and the Ministry of Social Defense had responsibility for hearing aid fitting services. Both services were united in 1979, resulting in the audiology system in place today. A cornerstone of the system was the Soviet government’s creation of All-Union Research Center for Audiology and Hearing Rehabilitation in 1988. This national institution conducts fundamental and applied audiology research and has oversight for all regional audiological centers. After the geopolitical changes of 1991, “All-Union” was dropped from the center’s name.
The Russian Federation has 217 federally funded specialized audiological centers—74 for adults, 78 for children, and 65 for all ages. Of these centers, 75 perform only hearing aid fittings. These centers are located in regional inpatient or outpatient hospitals, and are separate from otolaryngology departments. In addition, the number of commercial hearing centers is growing (158 centers in 2004).
Audiological centers and representatives of foreign hearing aid manufacturers distribute digital and programmable hearing aids. The annual demand for hearing aids based on the number of patients registered at audiological centers is about 500,000 units. Figures from the world market investigations for hearing aids indicate that the real demand per year for binaural hearing aid fittings in Russia is about 1 million.
Municipal and federal programs cover the cost of one hearing aid every four years for children under age 16 who have a bilateral severe or profound hearing loss as well as for people with disabilities and pensioners. Others pay for the hearing aids themselves, and earmolds are paid for by patients. Prior to 1996, 99% of the hearing aid market was financed by the government and only 1% was paid by patients or sponsors. Unfortunately, patients waited an average of up to two and a half years for a hearing aid, a wait that was tolerated because patients lacked funds to purchase a hearing aid. However, private hearing aid sales have been growing at about 5.5% annually and now comprise 25%–30% of the market share.
Since 1996, the profession of audiology has been included in the list of medical specialties in Russia. Audiologists are physicians with a two- or three-year residency in otolaryngology. Other professions, including physicists, physiologists, pathophysiologists, acoustics and microelectronics specialists, and speech-language pathologists are involved in audiological research and service provision. There are four-week educational courses in audiology for medical doctors and nurses involved in screening programs and four-week educational courses in audiology for speech therapists. Audiologists identify hearing loss and perform diagnostics, treatment, and hearing aid fitting, and surgery is left to otolaryngologists.
The Russian Society of Audiology, an affiliate of the International Society of Audiology, was established in 2001 to increase the coordination and cooperation of specialists involved in audiology, hearing, and speech rehabilitation, and development of diagnostic equipment, hearing aids, and assistive devices. The society also seeks to integrate Russian specialists into international professional societies and to standardize training programs.
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December 2008
Volume 13, Issue 17