1. Introduction

Background

1.1
On 13 September 2017, the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport (Committee) presented its report to the Parliament, entitled Still waiting to be heard…: Report on the Inquiry into the Hearing Health and Wellbeing of Australia (Hearing Health Report).1
1.2
The inquiry which produced the Hearing Health Report was one of a number of major inquiries and reviews into hearing services, programs or products undertaken over more than a decade from 2006, by various Government and non-Government agencies, and the Parliament.
1.3
These included:
1
Access Economics Report – Listen, Hear! The Economic Impact and Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia (2006).
2
Senate Community Affairs References Committee Report - Inquiry into Hearing Health in Australia (2010).
3
Australian National Audit Office Report – Delivery of the Hearing Community Service Obligation (2014).
4
Senate Select Committee on Health Report – Australian Hearing: Too Important to Privatise (2015).
5
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Report – Issues around the Sale of Hearing Aids: Consumer and Clinician Perspective (2017).
6
Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Report – The provision of Hearing Services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (2018).
7
Australian Government Competitive Neutrality Complaints Office Investigation Report - Australian Hearing (2018).
1.4
The inquiry which culminated in the Hearing Health Report was conducted over a period of approximately 10 months, received 150 submissions, 20 exhibits, with 11 public hearings held (in major capital cities and Shepparton, Victoria) and two site inspections undertaken.2
1.5
The inquiry received a broad range of information, including personal accounts: from government agencies providing support through policies and programs, hearing community advocacy and support organisations, peak industry and professional organisations, hearing health providers, universities and research organisations.
1.6
The Hearing Health Report included significant, but not unique findings and conclusions which were based on the evidence the Committee received. Areas captured by the Committee’s Hearing Health Inquiry included:
the types, causes and prevalence, current and future cost of hearing impairment and hearing disorders;
provision of hearing services and treatment for children and adults including for at risk populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders;
future research into hearing impairment and loss; and
the current provision of hearing assistance devices and structure of the hearing services industry.
1.7
On 14 August 2018, the Australian Government presented its response to the Hearing Health Report.3 The Government Response to the Hearing Health Report supported one recommendation, supported six recommendations in principle, noted eleven recommendations, and did not support four recommendations.4

About the Inquiry

Objectives and Scope

1.8
Taking into account the large number of reviews and inquiries spanning a period of more than ten years and the outcomes expected from the Government Response, the Committee undertook to inquire into the current progress of hearing health programs and policy. These hearing policy programs and initiatives are reported in the 2017-18 Annual Reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.
1.9
On 6 February 2019, pursuant to Standing Order 215(c)5 the Committee subsequently resolved to inquire into the 2017-18 Annual Reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.
1.10
As part of the inquiry, along with taking into consideration program and policy progress contained in the 2017-18 annual reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing, the Committee reviewed the Government’s progress of the 22 recommendations made in the 2017 Hearing Health Report.

Inquiry Conduct

1.11
The inquiry was announced on 6 February 2019 via media release. The Committee subsequently held one roundtable public hearing in Sydney on 25 February 2019. Witnesses who appeared at this public hearing are listed at Appendix B.
1.12
Witnesses included the Department of Health, Australian Hearing, the National Disability Insurance Agency, and hearing advocacy and support organisations.
1.13
The Committee did not call for submissions to the inquiry, although as is accepted practice, the Committee accepted and published answers to questions taken on notice (by witnesses at the public hearing), as submissions.

Report Structure

1.14
Chapter 2 outlines the Hearing Health Report and Government response; and progress of hearing health programs and services as contained in the 2017-18 Annual Reports of the Department of Health and Australian Hearing.
1.15
Chapter 3 discusses the recommendations of the hearing health inquiry in reference to the Government Response and new information received as part of the inquiry.

  • 1
    House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings 2016-2017, No.78, 13 September 2017, p.1097, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.
  • 2
    The site inspections were at: Shepherd Centre (early intervention centre), Sydney, Cochlear and the Australian Hearing Hub at Macquarie University (current research), as well a hearing clinic in Darwin.
  • 3
    House of Representatives Votes and Proceedings 2016-2017-2018, No.126, 14 August 2018, p.1706, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.
  • 4
    Australian Government Response to the Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee Report: Still waiting to be heard…Report on the Inquiry into the Hearing Health and Wellbeing of Australia, 14 August 2018.
  • 5
    Standing Order 215(c) provides ‘a committee may make an inquiry it wishes to make into annual reports of government departments and authorities and reports of the Auditor-General presented to the House, House of Representatives, Standing Orders, p. 88, 4 December 2017.

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