Terms of reference
On 10 September 2009 the Senate referred the following matter to the
Senate Community Affairs References Committee (the committee) for inquiry and
report by the last sitting day in February 2010 (subsequently extended to 13
Hearing Health in Australia with
particular reference to:
the extent, causes and costs of hearing impairment in Australia;
the implications of hearing impairment for individuals and the
the adequacy of access to hearing services, including assessment and support
services, and hearing technologies;
the adequacy of current hearing health and research programs, including education
and awareness programs; and
specific issues affecting Indigenous communities.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised in The Australian and on the committee's
website, inviting submissions from interested parties. The committee also wrote
to relevant organisations and individuals notifying them of the inquiry and
inviting submissions. Due to indications of considerable interest in the
reference subject matter, the committee undertook to accept submissions
throughout the course of the inquiry.
The committee received 184 public submissions, which were made available
through the committee website.
A list of individuals and organisations that made submissions or provided other
information authorised for publication by the committee is contained in Appendix
The committee heard evidence in public at Canberra on 12 October 2009
and 19 March 2010; Sydney on 13 October and 11 November 2009; Brisbane on 7 December
2009; Melbourne on 8 December 2009; Perth on 9 December 2009; Darwin on 16
February 2010; and Alice Springs on 18 February 2010.
A list of the witnesses who appeared at public hearings and details of
the committee's visits and inspections is at Appendix 2.
For some time, the committee has considered that there was a need for a
review of hearing services in Australia. The publication of the Access
Economics report, Listen Hear! The economic impact and cost of hearing loss
in Australia in 2006, as well as personal representations by a number of
hearing impaired people, provided the impetus for the inquiry.
The committee initially considered that it would meet its original
tabling date of February 2010. However as the inquiry progressed it became
clear that there are many issues facing hearing impaired people which required
further consideration by the committee. The committee received an extension to
its tabling date from the Senate which has allowed it to consider the evidence
provided more fully.
Structure of the report
The report is structured along the lines suggested by the terms of
reference. Chapter two examines the extent and causes of hearing loss in
Australia. Chapter three explores the costs of hearing impairment to Australia,
and chapter four looks at the implications of hearing loss for individuals and
for communities. Chapter five examines the many, sometimes complex, issues
surrounding access to hearing assessment and support services, and to hearing
technologies. Chapter six examines existing hearing health research programs,
and chapter seven considers what the evidence suggested about future hearing
health education and awareness campaigns. Lastly, chapter eight examines the
particular hearing health issues faced by Indigenous Australians.
The committee makes its comments at the end of each chapter, before
setting out its recommendations.
The committee has been fortunate to have access to Listen Hear!
the 2006 report by Access Economics on the economic impact of hearing loss in
Australia. This work was commissioned by the HEARing Cooperative Research
Centre (CRC) and the Victorian Deaf Society to quantify the complex economic
impact of hearing loss for the year 2005.
As the only study of its kind, Listen Hear! is a valuable resource for
the committee and for hearing health policy makers. That it is highly regarded
is reflected by the fact that nearly all submissions referred to its findings
when discussing the costs of hearing health in Australia.
During public hearings the committee used the services of Auslan and
tactile interpreters as well as captioning services. The committee would like
to thank: Tanya Miller, Kylie Scott, Kerrie Lakeman, Gerry Shearim and Denise
Lamont (Sydney); Judy Bonser and Peter Bonser (Brisbane); Dennis Witcombe,
Sarah Howell, Meredith Bartlett, Kathy Leibeck (Melbourne); and Elizabeth
Temple (Darwin) for their assistance.
The committee visited the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children,
Cochlear Limited and the National Acoustics Laboratory on 12 November 2009. For
taking time out of their busy days, and for their generous hospitality, the committee
would like to thank John Berryman, Greg Leigh and Jan North of the Royal
Institute for Deaf and Blind Children; Mark Salmon, Neville Mitchell and
Georgina Sanderson from Cochlear Limited; and Harvey Dillon and Margaret
Dewberry of National Acoustics Laboratory.
The committee would like to thank the many individuals and organisations
who provided submissions to the inquiry. The submissions from organisations and
stakeholder groups were of a high calibre, and underscored the strength of
their commitment to providing high quality services and support to people with
hearing impairment. The submissions from individuals often came directly from
the heart, and canvassed the many day-to-day issues encountered by people with
hearing impairment in Australia.
The Department of Health and Ageing provided valuable support to the
committee during the conduct of the inquiry. Departmental officers provided
background briefings to the committee secretariat on a range of hearing health
issues, which contributed greatly to the clarity and accuracy of this report.
The committee would like to sincerely thank the department for its
professionalism, support and cooperation.
Finally, the committee wishes to express its appreciation for the work
of the Senate Community Affairs Committee secretariat throughout this inquiry.
The secretariat consistently provided professional, high quality support to the
committee during the extensive hearings process, and during the preparation of
Note on references
References to the committee Hansard from 2010 may relate to the proof
Hansard: page numbers may vary between the proof and the official Hansard
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