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Hearing health for Indigenous Australians a crisis

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The Still Waiting to be Heard: Hearing Health Report has been presented to Federal Parliament and provides sobering reading – particularly in relation to Indigenous children.

The Australian Parliament’s Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee received more than 100 written submissions and held over 11 public hearings around the country to examine the hearing health and wellbeing of Australia.

The report found improving hearing health across the whole Australian community required greater prioritisation by Government.

Implementing the actions recommended in the report, it found, would improve the hearing health and wellbeing of Australians across all demographics.

Hearing loss is estimated to cost the Australian economy $33 billion per year.

Chair of the Committee Trent Zimmerman MP said: “For those who experience hearing loss, the most profound impact can be the effect on their everyday lives and relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues.

“Among working age Australians hearing loss can make it difficult to find or retain a job, and among older people hearing loss may lead to social isolation and has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”

One point stressed in the report was that it is “no exaggeration” to describe the level of hearing loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children as at a crisis.

The report made 22 recommendations including the development of a national strategy to address hearing health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities and a significant increase in the provision of hearing services to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Also recommended was increased support to hearing impaired Australians of working age who are unemployed or earning a low income.

A prohibition on the use of sales commissions in hearing aid clinics taking part in the Australian Government’s Hearing Services Program was another recommendation.

The implementation of a universal hearing screening program for children in their first year of school was also seen as beneficial by the committee.

The Report is available at:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Health_Aged_Care_and_Sport/HearingHealth/Report_1

The AMA urged the Committee to examine the existing, and expert, evidence on Indigenous hearing loss and hearing health problems and to support the evidence-based recommendations on best-practice responses. The AMA’s submission to the inquiry can be found here:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Health_Aged_Care_and_Sport/HearingHealth/Submissions

MEREDITH HORNE

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