Safeguarding Audiology Practices in Australia.

Independent audiologists are urging all state health ministers to recognise the importance of external regulation of audiology as a profession to safeguard against risks to the public. Read a summary of the issue that sparked the call: Safeguarding Audiology Practices in Australia.

National Disability Insurance Scheme.

In 2022, the Government initiated an independent review of the NDIS with the express aim of realigning it with its core mission: placing individuals with disability at the forefront. The review’s final report was published in the weeks before Christmas. Titled “Working together to deliver the NDIS,” the report outlined 26 key recommendations and 139 specific actions to enhance the scheme over the next half-decade. Now the proposed changes are being put into action. Keep up up-to-date with current disability issues and the NDIS in Hayley’s Posts.

First Nations Roundtable.

Deafness Forum Australia hosted a roundtable meeting with a select group of influential stakeholders with a shared aim of helping to address the ear care and hearing health disparities in First Nations communities. The Roundtable, in March 2024 in Canberra, was facilitated by Prof Kelvin Kong AM, an eminent ear, nose and throat surgeon and ardent social advocate. We discussed pivotal aspects of healthcare access and delivery, focusing on the challenges. From the Roundtable, an official communique was created: Meeting Communique – Addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hearing Healthcare MAR-2024

To augment the communique, we prepared a report that aligns the Roundtable outcomes with Closing The Gap Agreement priorities and the Roadmap for Hearing Health: Aligning Strategies with National Priorities – Roundtable Indigenous Hearing Healthcare MAR-2024.

Also in March, our national newsletter was a tribute to the talent, resilience and wisdom of Aboriginal Women in Hearing Healthcare and Advocacy. You can download and read this special edition of One in Six.

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

Australia’s justice system remains ineffective in addressing the complex needs and vulnerabilities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We must stop the perpetual cycle that exists between childhood ear disease and the disproportionally higher rates of incarceration for this population. Read our report, Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the criminal justice system APR 2024.

High Proportion of Indigenous Canberrans in Prison.

Nearly a third of Canberra’s average prison population is Indigenous, despite Indigenous Canberrans constituting only 2% of the ACT population. The Australian Capital Territory is currently facing a significant challenge, with the highest rate of incarceration rates for Indigenous people in the nation compared to non-Indigenous residents. A critical yet often overlooked aspect of the plight of First Nation Australians in incarceration warrants attention: undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss. Read more on this topic here.

Navigating Barriers and Promoting Inclusivity

In producing this paper, our primary aim was to highlight the pressing concern of inadequate hearing service access for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We examined existing research and summarised the findings in accessible language. We hope that this paper will foster enhanced awareness of these issues, spark meaningful dialogue and further research and collaborations in the field. We offer clear recommendations to policymakers, hearing healthcare practitioners, and community program managers. Here is where you can read the report.

Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

Deafness Forum Australia provided its suggestions for the creation of a national Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

This Centre, to be established by the Australian Government, aims to significantly improve employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, addressing the persistent employment gap across Australia. Despite their eagerness and ability to work, people who are deaf or hard of hearing face higher unemployment rates than people without disability and can experience numerous employment barriers, including attitudinal, environmental, and systemic challenges. We’ve listed what we think should be the Centre’s goals. Read more here.

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 the 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 submission in 2023 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.

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.