The sad state of hearing assistance in aged care

Deafness Forum of Australia is deeply concerned about the continuing, widespread lack of recognition and effective management of hearing loss in aged care services.

This is despite government accreditation requirements, overseen by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, having been in place for two decades.

Deafness Forum became aware of the absence of necessary hearing assistance training for aged care staff – from registered nurses to direct carers and the teams of Quality Surveyors employed by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to monitor aged care facilities.

In response to this situation Deafness Forum has, over the past few years, achieved inclusion of hearing assistance in the relevant VET qualifications and has developed a wide range of free training resources for both in-service and pre-service purposes –

However, it is obvious to us that education alone will not overcome the widespread indifference to the needs of hearing impaired ‘consumers’. Enforcement by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency is crucial.

The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency is currently developing guidance material for the draft single set of quality standards (Aged Care Quality Standards). The new Aged Care Quality Standards, developed by the Department of Health, will come fully into effect in July 2019. The guidance material will assist service providers to comply with the new Aged Care Quality Standards, and will form a new framework for quality surveyors to assess compliance.

Deafness Forum was deeply disappointed to find that hearing loss, which is so prevalent amongst aged care consumers (75 – 85%) and has such serious implications for quality of life and medical wellbeing, was ignored in the recently published draft guidance created by this Agency.

Deafness Forum met last week with the team at the Agency responsible for finalising the guidance material to make our case for an explicit reference to hearing care in the document that is presented to the Health Minister for his approval.

Deafness Forum’s position is that it is crucial that the guidance material must make very clear that hearing assistance is an essential requirement. A statement about hearing assistance in the guidance material is essential if hearing assistance is to be taken seriously by providers and quality surveyors.