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Good news at last about hearing assistance in aged care

Australia’s peak consumer advocacy organisation for people living with deafness and ear disorders is celebrating the successful outcome of its long-running campaign to have hearing loss management included in Government guidelines for aged care service providers.

70% of Australians aged over 70 have some hearing loss. This increases to around 85% in residential aged care. However, staff of age care service providers and in hospitals are seldom adequately trained to assist those with hearing loss.

Deafness Forum of Australia chair David Brady said that his organisation is deeply concerned about the continuing, widespread lack of recognition and effective management of hearing loss in aged care services.

“There’s been a scarcity of hearing assistance training for aged care staff, from registered nurses to direct carers and the teams of auditors employed by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to monitor aged care services,” David Brady said.

Deafness Forum had successfully lobbied for inclusion of hearing assistance in the relevant VET qualifications.

“But it was obvious to us that education alone will not overcome the widespread indifference to the needs of hearing impaired consumers. Proper enforcement by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency is crucial,” he said.

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency recently released its ‘Guidance and Resources for Providers’ to support the new Aged Care Quality Standards which will come fully into effect in July 2019. The guidance materials are the practical guidelines for aged care service providers and a reference for those that audit the providers.

For the first time, hearing loss has been clearly addressed in the Guidance and Resources for Providers materials. Hearing references are found throughout this new Guidance material.

“It’s not the complete solution to all problems in addressing hearing loss in aged care centres and in home care – auditors will need to dig deep in their assessments – but every party will know that how a service provider deals with hearing and communication issues will be examined in the process of Government certification,” David Brady said.

Deafness Forum thanks the Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency for listening to its case and responding to its members’ concerns. Deafness Forum acknowledges the essential support of Australian Hearing, in particular Emma Scanlan and several other managers, together with many volunteers, in making a very real difference to the health and wellbeing of Australians in aged care facilities.