An investment of $21.2 million in hearing health as part of the October 2020 Federal Budget that will assist more Australians access hearing health care has been welcomed by Australia’s leading professional body in audiology.
The funding, over five years, will implement key initiatives from the Roadmap for Hearing Health. These include:
1. improved capability of the aged care workforce in supporting residents with hearing loss;
2. a competitive research grants program to develop the evidence base for interventions to support vulnerable Australians;
3. a rural hearing health workforce summit;
4. initiatives to improve early identification of hearing and speech difficulties for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children;
5. the development of nationally consistent clinical tele-audiology standards; and
6. a national three-year hearing health campaign that will focus on preventing, treating and destigmatising avoidable hearing loss and damage.
The Government will also implement changes to the Hearing Services Program from 1 July 2021 that will increase the duration of a voucher from three years to five years to align with industry standards and improvements in technology and continue the maintenance subsidy when a device is no longer under warranty after the first 12 months.
In addition, there has been funding for hearing research granted under the Medical Research Future Fund and funding to pilot a voluntary hearing screening program for school-age students.Teleaudiology items included on the Medicare Benefits Scheme was also confirmed to be extended to March 2021.
Audiology Australia Chief Executive Officer, Dr Tony Coles, welcomed the announcement, saying the funding would lead to better hearing health outcomes for Australians.
“Hearing loss impacts an estimated one in six Australians, and this figure is expected to rise in the coming years,” says Dr Coles.
“There are implications on physical and mental wellbeing, productivity and social connectivity as a result of untreated hearing loss.”
“Investment in education, research and programs to help connect Australians with an accredited audiologist is vital to ensure we can improve overall health and wellbeing outcomes in our community,” says Dr Coles.
A letter from the Minister, the Hon. Mark Coulton MP to Audiology Australia confirming the funding is available to read here.