Deafness Forum

Deafness Forum of Australia is the peak national body representing the interests of the 3.5 million Australians who live with hearing loss.

Hearing loss is the most common disability of adulthood. For facts & stats, visit Deafness and hearing loss: causes, impacts, prevention, identification and management, global strategy

Our mission is to make hearing health & wellbeing a national priority in Australia.

Our work encompasses the full human experience and includes accessibility in communications and the made environment, human rights, justice, education, employment, transport, health and aged care. These aspects of life align with, and are drawn from the National Disability Strategy, a high level policy framework to give coherence to, and guide government activity across mainstream and disability-specific areas of public policy.

Our constituency is people with hearing loss, ear and balance disorders, people who communicate using Australian Sign Language, and their families. Membership also includes organisations that represent these people; and individuals and associations which provide services that promote hearing health.

We are the peak representative for Australian consumers in the World Hearing Forum, a global network of stakeholders promoting ear and hearing care that was created in 2019 by the World Health Organization.

What we do

  • represent and promote the interests of our members and others through national consultations, sharing information and advocacy
  • provide a forum where members and all stakeholders can work together to achieve the goal of accessible ear and hearing care for all
  • provide balanced and realistic advice to governments to inform public policy to build a fairer and more inclusive nation
  • encourage and support relevant research and sharing of knowledge and experience

A strategic approach

Be the trusted, national, independent consumer voice for the whole hearing health and deafness sector

This means

  • Forming realistic, actionable recommendations for reform by engaging with our members and other stakeholders within the sector.
  • Developing productive relationships with federal politicians, advisers and government officials.
  • Being represented on strategic groups to provide input during public policy development.

Priority actions

  • Being an active member of the Hearing Health Sector Alliance; a self-funded Alliance that represents consumers, professionals, industry and research and science to promote the positive work that the sector is doing to improve Australia’s hearing health; and to advance the Hearing Health & Wellbeing Roadmap
  • Advocating for community awareness of hearing health and issues
  • Seeking funding and partnerships to promote World Hearing Day/ Hearing Awareness Week
  • Contributing to the Commonwealth Government’s National Disability Strategy: 2020 and beyond
  • Contributing to the Royal Commission into Aged Care
  • Contributing to the Royal Commission into Disability
  • Advising the National Disability Insurance Agency on matters of consumers’ concern
    • Contributing to planning the transition of Australian Government Hearing Services Program to the NDIS in 2020.

Be a focused, efficient, accountable and sustainable organisation

This means

  • Communicating with purpose and integrity
  • Ensuring accountable contributions and practice of the board, its appointed representatives and staff
  • Managing our resources responsibly, efficiently and effectively to build an organisation that will be equipped to represent the future aspirations of the people and organisations we represent
  • Maintaining an up to date and practical annual Strategic Plan that clearly communicates what our financial situation will allow us to achieve and how we will achieve it

Priority actions

  • Maintaining a high degree of public and member visibility via newsletters, social media and websites
  • Seeking funding and partnerships to fund and undertake the work of the organisation.
  • Appointing and supporting office-bearers with relevant skills and experience to oversight the running and direction of the organisation

State of hearing loss in Australia

Hearing impairment is the most common disability of adulthood.

Today, one in six Australians is affected by hearing loss. For many it is so debilitating that it affects their family and social lifestyle and their employment. With an ageing population, hearing loss is projected to increase to 1 in every 4 Australians by 2050.

A significant component of acquired hearing loss (37 percent) is due to excessive noise exposure from workplace noise and leisure activities such as inappropriate listening behaviours, and this is largely preventable. Hearing loss is associated with increasing age, rising from less than 1 percent for people younger than 15 years to three in every four people aged over 70 years. About 18 percent of the population live with ear disorders such as Tinnitus and Meniere’s.

Hearing loss represents a significant and quantifiable economic cost to Australia. Given our ageing population, and the need for all Australians to stay productive for longer, impact of hearing loss on productivity in the workforce must be viewed as a critical matter than can be addressed. People who want to participate in work and have a hearing loss face challenges that are unfamiliar to most of their hearing peers: for some, the barriers become evident, start at or before the process of searching for work and, for many, they become more acute during the selection process or at work. A loss of hearing acuity can also lead people to exit the labour force sooner than they would like to, and before their intended age of retirement.

Deafness Forum practices the social model of disability, addressing environmental factors that inhibit our constituents’ participation in society.  Physical impediments in our sector include communications access, building and transport design, and hearing services affordability.  The main social factor that is negative community attitudes to deafness and how this is played out to limit people’s functioning in education, workforce and social settings.

Augmenting a social model is a person-centred approach recognising that hearing loss is acquired through recreational and workplace noise, illness, medications and as part of the process of ageing.  Acquired hearing loss creates social isolation and is linked to dementia and mental health issues.  Identification, prevention and interventions make significant improvements to a person’s capacity and functionality.