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The Federal Budget 2011 has allocated further funding to improve hearing services. The aim is to reduce the incidence and consequence of hearing loss, including through research and prevention activities, and improve access to hearing services and devices for eligible people.
From 1 January 2012, the Australian Government will extend eligibility for hearing rehabilitation and hearing devices, including hearing aids and cochlear speech processor upgrades, to young adults up to 26 years of age (previously 21 years). The 2010 Senate Inquiry Report: Hear Us: Inquiry into Hearing Health in Australia, identified children and young people as being a particular at risk group. Young people with hearing loss often experience negative impacts on their future earning potential and social participation and often lacked access to hearing services. Responding to a major area of concern raised by many stakeholders during the Senate Inquiry, the extension of eligibility will enable this group to have continued hearing support during a period in which many are studying, training or establishing themselves in a career with a view to becoming self-reliant in the long-term.
The Community Services Obligations component of the Hearing Services Program has experienced significant growth in the client population, including Indigenous clients. From 2011-2012 additional funding will be provided to ensure special needs groups can access the services they require in a timelier manner.
In 2011-12 the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) will be provided with $4.0 million to support research into hearing loss and its management. The program currently funds research targeting priority groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are over 50 years or who were participants in a Community Development Employment Program can access free hearing services from Australian Hearing. The Australian Government offers free hearing services for eligible Australian citizens or permanent residents under a number of categories.