What are your rights if you have a hearing loss in Australia?
It’s true – we do live in the lucky country, particularly when it comes to hearing loss and available services. The Australian Government supports people with hearing loss in various ways and you should know your rights to ensure you’re claiming all relevant services to assist in your communication augmentation.
In Australia, hearing impairment and deafness is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act which makes it against the law to discriminate against a person who has a hearing loss.
The Hearing Services Program
The Australian Government formally established the ‘voucher’ system in 1997, when The Australian Hearing Services Administration Act came into effect. This enabled eligible people to gain access to hearing services. Eligibility categories, for receiving fully subsidised hearing services include:
- Senior Australian holding a Pensioner Concession card
- Receiving a Sickness Allowance from Centrelink
- Department of Veteran’s Affairs
- Gold card holder
- White card holder
- Dependent person of either above category
- Australian Defence Force member
- Referred by Disability Employment Services Program
- Participant in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
People with hearing loss who have complex hearing or communication needs, or who live in a remote area may also receive some assistance. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are also provided for in certain circumstances. All children and young people under the age of 26 are also supported for hearing assessment, hearing rehabilitation and fully subsidised hearing devices by the Australian Government
There has been some confusion around hearing impairment and NDIS, with deaf and hearing loss support groups advocating to clarify who can claim for assistance under this program. Currently, people with a hearing impairment, in the better ear, of great than 90 decibels, meet the disability requirements in Section 24 of the NDIS ACT. Therefore they don’t need to demonstrate they have a reduced functional capacity to be eligible for NDIS services. There are other hearing loss categories that can also access NDIS services. To apply for NDIS access the person must demonstrate they have reduced functional capacity in one of more of these categories: communication, social interaction, learning, mobility, self-care or self-management.
If you are 26 years or older with hearing loss, and fall into one of the following categories, you may be eligible to receive assistance from the NDIS:
- Permanent hearing impairment of greater than 90 decibels in the better ear (pure tone average of 500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz and 4000Hz).
- Permanent hearing impairment of greater than 65 decibels in the better ear, but must provide evidence of substantially reduced functional capacity.
- Hearing impairment of less than 65 decibels in the better ear and who also have another disability may be eligible (and may need to provide evidence of substantially reduced functional capacity).
- People who have problems with speaking and listening may also be eligible to receive services (and may need to provide evidence of substantially reduced functional capacity).
Workplace rights and WorkCover
You can’t be discriminated against in your workplace or when gaining employment if you have a hearing loss unless your hearing impairment means you can’t perform the essential requirements of job-related tasks, after reasonable adjustments have been made. What does ‘reasonable adjustment’ mean? This could be anything from providing assistive listening devices in the workplace (loop systems, volume control phone, remote microphone, vibrating alarm systems), to training to staff in communication tactics when working with someone who has a hearing loss and modifying the workspace to provide a quieter working environment.
If you work in a noisy environment with noise greater than 85dB, your workplace is required to provide you with appropriate hearing protection and bi-annual hearing tests to monitor your hearing levels. If you have a recorded permanent hearing loss and reported tinnitus, caused by workplace noise, then you have a right to claim compensation for your loss of hearing. The compensation could include not only a sum of money, but the provision of hearing devices and rehabilitation treatment for your hearing loss and tinnitus.
It is worthwhile to determine your rights and eligibility if you feel you fall into any of the categories covered in this article. The Hearing Services Program and NDIS have comprehensive websites with more information. For workers’ compensation information you should check the WorkCover or WorkSafe website in your state.
Need Help Finding Hearing Help?
Hearing Choices has partnered with hundreds of clinics right around Australia. We can help you find the perfect hearing aid and offer risk free trials across our network. Get in touch now to find out more or to arrange a consultation at your local clinic.