Hearing services provided through the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the way to improve them.

When the Australian Government initially discussed its plans to transfer existing hearing services to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we received assurances from both the NDIA and Department of Health & Aged Care that service quality and timeliness would be maintained, with the goal of improvement. They also assured us that the costs to the Commonwealth would not exceed the current expenses at that time. However, neither of these assurances have been fulfilled.
Given these circumstances, a service delivery model should be adopted that ensures easy access to high-quality and consistent hearing services at a reasonable cost to the government. Read our recommendations in a letter to the Review of the NDIS conducted by the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Attaining universal inclusion of all people who need the support of the NDIS.

In a companion submission to the Government review of the NDIS, we identified 9 key factors that if addressed, can dramatically improve the community’s trust in the NDIS.

Preventing hearing loss with Safe Listening Habits.

Preventive health action is the key to achieving a healthier Australia by 2030. Avoidable hearing loss represents an enormous social and economic cost to Australia. Prevention is the most effective way to reduce hearing loss and tinnitus. Exposure to noise, whether prolonged or of short duration, is a major cause of approximately one-third of adult-onset hearing loss. And it is almost entirely avoidable. Read more about Preventable hearing loss. You can also read about Australia’s National Preventive Health Strategy 2021-2030 – it provides a high-level guide to preventive health actions.

Unaddressed hearing loss is a serious public health problem.

Australians with good hearing health are better able to lead fulfilling and productive lives. People who have untreated hearing problems tend to have much higher general healthcare costs than those without hearing loss – as much as 50% more. Along with the distress experienced by individuals with hearing loss and the financial costs faced by families, hearing loss results in an annual cost to Australia’s economy of $30 billion dollars. Read more about Australia’s high levels of untreated hearing loss.

Closing The Gap: Addressing the hearing health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the criminal justice system.

There is a pressing need to specifically address the high rates of hearing loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in contact with the criminal justice system, with rates as high as 80-95% in some communities. Our justice system remains ineffective in addressing the complex needs and vulnerabilities of this population. We must stop the perpetual cycle that exists between childhood ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and how it impacts the disproportionally higher rates of incarceration for this population and makes recommendations accordingly.

Read our recommendations.

There have been problems with Children’s cochlear implants in hospitals in two states.

There are two state government investigations currently underway, but we feel that independent investigations may be necessary to earn community trust.

We will keep the community posted as we work through how we can constructively contribute to the investigation and systems improvements. The immediate priority is supporting the families and children, and if you go to the following web links you can read what we have recommended on their behalf.

Addressing the burden of hearing loss among vulnerable groups in the community.

The objective of the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program should be to ensure that vulnerable groups, those requiring specialised programs to address their hearing needs, and people on low income have access to high-quality hearing services at no cost or minimal cost. In order to do so, the eligibility of the Program should be extended to a broader group of vulnerable people:

1. People on a Health Care Card, or Low-Income Card
2. Seniors Health Care Card Holders
3. Children of refugees
4. People in the criminal justice system
5. People in Aged Care

Read our recommendations.

Creation of a new eligibility category for Aged Care under the Community Service Obligations component of the Australian Government Hearing Services Program.

Residents of aged care facilities are currently unable to access the hearing services they need under the Voucher Program component of the Hearing Services Program (HSP). These clients have complex needs and research has shown that residents in aged care require a different model of service delivery than is available through the Voucher Program.

Read our recommendations.

Testing to detect noise-induced hearing loss in the workplace.

The inability to hear can be a significant threat to a worker’s health and safety. Occupational hearing loss and deafness is a completely preventable injury. It is a serious injury that has a profound impact on an individual’s quality of life.

Two characteristics of noise-induced hearing loss have been thoroughly established. The amount of hearing loss increases with noise intensity, duration and exposure, such that more intense and longer-duration noise exposures cause more severe hearing loss.

Deafness Forum Australia, Unions NSW, The Australian Workers Union (NSW Branch), and affiliate unions believe it is important to test a worker’s hearing at the commencement of their career (within three months of the worker commencing work where hearing protection is required), to provide a baseline measurement as a reference for future audiometric test results. Once this is done, early identification of changes to hearing due to noise is the most effective way of assessing the effectiveness of any control measure in place and in turn preventing hearing loss, which can take place over a long period of time or can in some cases be instant. Follow-up testing should occur every two years. Testing should occur well into the work shift so that any temporary hearing loss can be picked up. More frequent audiometric testing may be needed if exposures are equal to or greater than 100dB(A).

Not only does early detection of noise-induced hearing loss through audiometric testing in preventing further hearing loss, it also assists in the medical and scientific study of hearing loss.

Read our report.