Modernizing times: UK hearing-impaired consumers at the policy crossroads
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Ross, L. (2008) Modernizing times: UK hearing-impaired consumers at the policy crossroads, International Journal of Consumer Studies, vol. 32, , pp. 122-127,
Although there is now a long-standing belief in the UK that free consumer choice improves market efficiency, the supply of some consumer products and services remained controlled by the state. In the interests of consumers, it regards as vulnerable to misdirection and malpractice or unlikely to have the technical expertise to make informed decisions. Historically, the supply of hearings aids has been restricted to the National Health Service and specific licensed practitioners in the independent sector. Recent changes to both product and service provision have brought about a radical alteration to this situation, and to the framework of control. This case study of a changing healthcare system demonstrates more generally the difficulties experienced by people trying to improve or maintain auditory functions for speech communication. Access to appropriate technological solutions may be precluded by cost, distribution arrangements or lack of knowledge. Overarching these difficulties, regional health policy variations within the UK mean that consumer experiences vary according to where they live. Consumer influence over the direction and scope of changes to the hearing aid market is limited despite the rhetoric of choice. This article examines the emerging 'liberalized' market and its contradictions.