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Health facts and priorities each fortnight from New Matilda and the Australian Health Policy Institute

Over 50% of Australians over the age of 55 have a hearing impairment, but the rate of ownership and use of hearing aids in Australia remains low. Only around 20% of elderly people who have a hearing impairment own a hearing aid, and a third of those who own a hearing aid no longer use it.

The Federal Government has increased its funding of hearing services through the Australian Government Hearing Services program by 10% in the past year (Bishop, J. Address to the 3rd National Deafness Sector Summit, Brisbane, 16th May, 2004 – link here). Hearing assistance through this program however, is only available to those with Pensioner Concession Cards.

Hearing problems that are not corrected can have a significant impact on the mental and physical health of those affected. For example, uncorrected hearing problems contribute to depression and anxiety, and create difficulties for those affected in their personal and family relationships, social activities and general communication. Hearing loss can also impact on the quality of life of family members of those affected.

The Australian population is aging, and the hearing health of all hearing impaired elderly Australians needs to be addressed as a government priority. (The Deafness Forum has suggested that hearing health become a health priority area for the Federal Government. Deafness Forum (2004) Policy Position: Hearing Health – A National Health Priority).

Jennifer Smith
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Australian Health Policy Institute
at The University of Sydney

Dental health care

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.