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Background information on the regulation of hearing aid dispensers
On 1 April 2010 The Hearing Aid Council became the first statutory regulator absorbed by the Health Professions Council, when their responsibility for regulating hearing aid dispensers in the private sector was transferred to the HPC.
The Hearing Aid Council was a statutory regulator set up by the Hearing Aid Council Act (1968) to register dispensers and their employers working in the private hearing aid sector. It set the standards of education, training, conduct and performance dispensers had to meet to join the register and investigated any alleged breaches of those standards. There were around 1500 hearing aid dispensers on the HAC register. Following on the Hampton Review, the change was intended to strengthen protection for consumers, reduce costs for the industry and remove barriers between the public and private sectors.
Frequently asked questions about the transfer of hearing aid dispensers to the HPC Register from the Hearing Aid Council
These frequently asked questions (FAQs) have been put together based on the common questions we received on this topic.
1. When did hearing aid dispensers join the Register?
The HPC opened the Register to hearing aid dispensers on 1 April 2010.
This was as a result of the Privy Council signing off the necessary legislation to transfer the regulation of hearing aid dispensers from the Hearing Aid Council to the Health Professions Council on the 10 February 2010 .
- Click here to read the press release
2. How will I be able to register with the HPC?
All hearing aid dispensers who were registered with the Hearing Aid Council (HAC) were automatically transferred to the HPC on the day the new register opened.
Any new applicant wishing to join the HPC following the opening of the new register will need to apply through one of our application routes.
Most new applicants apply for registration through the UK approved course route after completing one of the approved courses. The HPC approved all courses that led to registration with the HAC. This includes some programmes that are no longer offered but that led to registration with the HAC in the past.
Applicants who completed their education and training abroad can apply through our international route.
- More information can be found via this link.
3. What title is protected
The protected title is 'hearing aid dispenser'. Anyone wanting to use that title must be registered with the HPC.
Hearing aid dispenser has been a legal description of the regulated profession for over forty years and is generally understood by both consumers and the profession. The title continues to be protected by law since the HAC register was transferred to the HPC. This provides a continuity of regulation and consumer protection.
People who use the title ‘hearing aid audiologist’ may do so legally as it is not a title that was protected in law by the Hearing Aid Council.
Professionals are not obliged to use the protected title that applies to them. Dispensers who call themselves a ‘hearing aid audiologist’ are able to do so as this is not be a protected title. However, any person undertaking the protected functions must be registered with the HPC regardless of which title they use.
4. Why was a grandparenting period not put in place?
A grandparenting period of registration is only necessary when introducing statutory regulation and protecting a professional title for the first time.
Hearing aid dispensers were already subject to statutory regulation by the HAC.
This meant that there were no individuals currently outside statutory regulation who would be eligible to make an application via grandparenting.
5. I completed an approved course but let my HAC registration lapse. Can I register with the HPC?
Yes. The HPC approved all courses previously approved by the HAC.
Applicants who hold an approved qualification but were not registered with the HAC at the time of the transfer of the register should apply for HPC registration through the UK approved course route.
If an individual had been removed from the HAC register (for example as a result of a disciplinary procedure) the application may need to be looked at by a registration panel.
6. I have read about the HPC’s returning to practice process. I have been out of practice for over five years. Do these rules apply to me?
The ‘returning to practice’ process only applies to individuals who have removed themselves from the HPC Register. As such, it does not apply to individuals who removed themselves from the HAC register and then apply to join the HPC Register. Those individuals would need to apply via the ‘UK approved course route’.
However, under our legislation the HPC can require applicants who have been out of practice for over five years to undertake additional measures, for example education or a period of supervision to ensure that they meet our standards of proficiency.
Applications from applicants who have been out of practice for over five years will be considered on a case by case basis.
- More information about returning to practise can be found here.
7. I’m a registered clinical scientist who practices audiology. Do I need to register as a hearing aid dispenser? If so, do I need to pay two registration fees?
Registered clinical scientists who practice audiology must also be registered as a hearing aid dispenser if they carry out the protected functions (assessing or testing an individual's hearing, or prescribing a hearing aid for an individual, with a view to a hearing aid being supplied by way of retail, sale or hire to, or for the use of, that individual).
Registered clinical scientists who are dispensing would have been registered with both the HPC and HAC and therefore paying two registration fees. When the HAC register transfered to the HPC, these individuals became registered in two different parts of the HPC Register. This means they will need to pay two registration fees.
- More information about dual registration can be found via this link.
8. I am an NHS audiologist. Do I need to register as a hearing aid dispenser?
Audiologists working in the NHS do not need to be registered as hearing aid dispensers unless they assess, test or prescribe with a view to a hearing aid being supplied by way of retail, sale or hire.
If an NHS audiologist also worked in the private sector, they would need to be registered with the HPC as a hearing aid dispenser.
The HAC introduced a new aptitude test that allowed those with relevant qualifications and work experience to register as a hearing aid dispenser. The test was primarily aimed at those currently dispensing in the NHS or abroad and who wished to work in the private sector. The test is one of the HPC approved courses.
9. Why are there protected functions in addition to the protected title?
Regulation of hearing aid dispensers includes both a protection of title and protection of function.
This means that the following tasks are ‘controlled acts’ which only a registered hearing aid dispenser can perform:
assessing or testing a person’s hearing; or
prescribing a hearing aid for a person with a view to a hearing aid being supplied to or provided for that person by way of retail, sale or hire.
Other professions regulated by the HPC have a protected title only. By protecting these controlled acts, the HPC’s powers are similar to those of the HAC.
Only someone registered as a hearing aid dispenser can perform these controlled acts. Any individual not registered with the HPC as a hearing aid dispenser, even if they are registered as another profession, could be committing a criminal act if they perform them.
10. I am a student halfway through completing a foundation degree. What does the transfer of registers mean for me?
Students on approved courses who graduate after 1 April 2010 are eligible to apply to join the HPC Register.
11. I am a member of the public, what do these changes mean for me?
You should always check that your health professional is registered. Health professionals must be registered so you can be sure
12. The threshold level of qualification for entry to the Register has been set as a foundation degree in hearing aid audiology. What does this mean for me?
Whenever the HPC regulates a new profession, it sets a threshold level of qualification for entry to the Register. This standard sets out the normative expectation for the type of qualification required to deliver and assess the standards of proficiency appropriately. This means that the qualification is one normally required to deliver and assess the standards. For hearing aid dispensers, this has been set as a foundation degree in hearing aid audiology. All programmes that were approved by the HAC meet or exceed this level of qualification.
The threshold level of qualification only applies to education programmes and does not apply to individuals. Individuals who were registered by the HAC, transfered to the HPC Register as outlined above. If you are not currently working and have a qualification which was approved by the HAC you will still be able to register, even if the qualification was not a foundation degree. Please see the information above on registration.
You can check whether a dispenser is registered by checking our online register.