Goal 1: Awareness & Inclusion

Our overarching goal is the proper inclusion of people who are deaf or hard of hearing in the Australian community. Inclusion occurs when people feel valued and respected, have access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute their perspectives and talents. We are focussed on enhancing the visibility and voice of people who are hard of hearing or deaf. And to raise awareness and increase understanding of what it means to have good hearing health and how to go about it.

Despite the large number of Australians who are deaf or hard of hearing, and the capacity for the hearing of all people in Australia to be affected by noisy environments and the natural ageing process, there is a low level of knowledge surrounding hearing health issues.

Stigmatisation is common and results from a lack of understanding and awareness. Discrimination can be overt or subtle — mistaking the signs of hearing loss, hard of hearing and deaf people are often assumed by others as being cognitively impaired and less able, or simply ignored. People experiencing this exclusion in some quarters may deny they have a problem or choose not to seek support or treatment, and disengage further.

This lack of awareness or understanding, or even fear, in the general community results in a lack of access to social and public events and communications as there is insufficient thought given to methods of inclusion in communication, such as hearing loops, captioning and Auslan interpreting.

In particular, limitations in this area such as a national shortage of uptake of hearing loop systems and captioning, Auslan interpreters and other infrastructure and professionals seriously impacts people who are hard of hearing or deaf in obtaining and maintaining jobs, accessing education, living well in aged care facilities, using healthcare and legal services, and interacting in daily life. For children who are deaf or hard of hearing, there is a poor understanding in the community, among families and in schools and other institutions, and particularly in remote, rural and regional areas, of their communication needs. Indeed, they may not be able to express their needs. Early intervention services are essential for young children with hearing loss who are at a crucial stage for the acquisition of language (both spoken and signed) and communication. Provision of effective early intervention will enable the vast majority of children with hearing loss to achieve independence through their signed or spoken language.

Given the critical impact of education, hearing support teachers, teachers of the deaf and appropriate classroom improvements (including soundfield amplification, appropriate acoustics, etc) are vital. In remote areas where hearing loss is particularly prevalent, teachers must be well oriented in using whole class approaches to accommodating the learning and communications needs of the many students with past and current hearing loss.

For adolescents who are hard of hearing or deaf, inclusion is essential during a time of rapid physical, cognitive and social change, when identity is developed. Communication and access to information are essential, especially regarding the social world and in preparing for adulthood and further study, trade training or direct entry into the workforce.

For people in the work environment, understanding and access to Auslan interpreters and technology that will assist communication are critical in enabling people to engage to their full potential in the paid workforce and in general life. It is generally accepted that the ability to communicate with others and express themselves as they choose is central to a person’s health and wellbeing.

Given the increasing prevalence of hearing loss with age, older people comprise a large proportion of those who are hard of hearing. This is a particular challenge in terms of social isolation and the ability to engage, coupled with a diminishing social network as we age. Frail older people who are deaf or hard of hearing in residential care are a particularly vulnerable population given the often high level care needs and comorbidities.

Outcomes for better hearing in Australia.

  • People who are deaf, hard of hearing or have ear health and balance disorders are included as a matter of course in social and recreational environments, schools and the workplace.
  • Public communications, including in educational settings, workplaces and public spaces, are delivered equitably to people who are hard of hearing and deaf.
  • Behaviours and actions that support and include the people who are deaf or hard of hearing are understood and adopted by all Australians.
  • Stigma associated with deafness, hearing loss and wearing and using hearing technology is eliminated.
  • People who recognise that they or a family member may have a hearing problem know how to get help, and are encouraged to quickly do so.
  • Auslan language use is promoted and normalised, and the number of Auslan interpreters working professionally is increased significantly.
  • Public policy and community expectations, particularly with regards to employment and urban design, are informed by the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • All schools across Australia share information about hearing health and deafness with their students and communities.

Taken from Australia’s Roadmap for Hearing Health.