The Australian Greens have today announced a broad new initiative to improve support for the growing number of people with hearing loss.
"One in six Australians suffers from some degree of hearing loss, and this number is expected to increase to one in four by 2050," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on disabilities said today.
"Hearing loss costs the nation almost $12 billion a year and reduces a person's capacity to engage in the community and in the workforce. It has been estimated that almost 160,000 people are not working because they can't hear well enough.
"Our initiative expands the Australian Government Hearing Services program for low income earners, providing a further 133,000 people access to vital services. The plan also provides optional access on a fee-for-service basis to former Australian Hearing clients who become ineligible for these services when they turn 26.
"Early intervention for hearing health issues in children is vital for enabling them to have the best opportunity to succeed in education and go on to fulfilling lives. We will fund a national database to track children with a hearing impairment and provide early, evidence-based language and communication intervention for all children with hearing impairment prior to them starting school and ensure sound field systems are provided in all new classrooms.
"Hearing loss is a significant issue amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, especially children, so to contribute to efforts to close the gap, we will initiate a model multidisciplinary project to address the incidence and impact of otitis media in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
"We will provide sound fields in all existing classrooms where there is a significant population of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. To help improve education outcomes, we want to prioritise hearing screenings and follow up for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from remote communities prior to commencement of school. We will provide a fund for induction programs for teachers who are posted to schools in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
"The Greens are committed to more inclusive and accessible communities. Our smartphone app ‘Access All Areas' that allows people with disability, their family, friends and the community to report accessibility trouble spots, including those linked to hearing loss, such as the failure to provide adequate signs, captioning, audio loops or Auslan interpreters.
"By making hearing health a priority, the Greens will improve the lives of millions of Australians, their families and loved ones," Senator Siewert concluded.