Online version of the 2012-13 Department of Health and Ageing Annual Report

Outcome 7: Hearing Services

A reduction in the incidence and consequence of hearing loss, including through research and prevention activities, and access to hearing services and devices for eligible people

Page last updated: 29 October 2013

Major Achievements

  • Secured agreement to deliver the Australian Government Hearing Services Program to DisabilityCare Australia participants.
  • Implemented a more targeted, risk-based audit program of hearing service providers to assess their compliance with contractual and legal obligations.
  • Completed first round of user acceptance testing of the new online portal to improve access to services for consumers.

Challenges

  • Meeting the needs of a diverse user group including clients and service providers in developing an online application processing system.

Performance

This is a doughnut chart and a table that summarises the results for all deliverables and key performance indicators in outcome 7 during 2012-13. The results show that 71.4% were met compared with 55% in 2011-12, 14.3% were substantially met compared with 25% in 2011-12 and 14.3% were not met compared with 20% in 2011-12.

71.4% MET

14.3% SUBSTANTIALLY MET

14.3% NOT MET

Period Met Substantially met Not met
2012-13 71.4% 14.3% 14.3%
2011-12 55.0% 25.0% 20.0%

Program contributing to Outcome 7

Trends

The level of fitting services was maintained from 2011-12 to 2012-13 as shown in the following figure.

Figure 7.1: Initial and return fitting rates for the Voucher Program, 2008-09 to 2012-13

The figure shows five groups of clustered columns (two in each) representing the years from 2008-09 though to 2012-13 (x-axis). Each cluster represents two types of fitting rates for the Voucher Program which includes: Initial fitting rate and Return fitting rate. The chart indicates a similar fitting rates for the program from 2008-09 (which accounts for 88.9% of the initial fitting rate and 48.2% of the return fitting rate) through to 2012-13 (which accounts for 77.7% and 36.4% respectively)
Text Alternative: Figure 7.1: Initial and return fitting rates for the Voucher Program, 2008-09 to 2012-13

For new clients who received a hearing assessment in 2012-13, 77.7% received a fitting service compared with 79.2% in 2011-12. The proportion of return clients receiving an assessment and then a fitting service was also similar for 2012-13 and 2011-12 (36.4% versus 39.5% respectively).

The number of new clients applying for the Voucher Program has remained steady with a slight increase from 2011-12 to 2012-13.

Figure 7.2: Number of voucher applications for new and return clients, 2008-09 to 2012-13

The figure shows five groups of clustered columns (two in each) representing the years from 2008-09 though to 2012-13 (x-axis). Each cluster represents two types of application for the Voucher Program which include: New client applications and Return client applications. The chart indicates a consistent number of return client applications during 2012-13 compared to 2011-12 and a slight increase in the number of new client applications during 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.

From 1 January 2012, the voucher period for the Voucher Program changed from two to three years. The transition to a three year voucher was expected to result in less return clients (i.e. clients who have received at least one hearing service voucher previously) receiving services under the Voucher Program from 2012-13 until 2014-15. Consistent with this, there were fewer return clients in 2012-13 compared to the previous year.

Outcome Strategy

Outcome 7 aims to reduce the incidence and consequences of avoidable hearing loss in the Australian community and provide access to high quality hearing services and devices. In 2012-13, the Department worked to achieve this Outcome by managing initiatives under the program outlined below.

Program 7.1: Hearing Services

Program 7.1 aims to support access to quality hearing services for eligible clients, provide better targeted hearing services and support research into hearing loss prevention and management.

The Hearing Services Program supports pensioners, veterans, children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and those with complex hearing problems to access hearing assessments and rehabilitation aids, via a network of private and public service providers.

Support access for eligible clients to quality hearing services

Supporting eligible clients to manage their hearing loss and better engage in the wider community is a cornerstone of the Hearing Services Program. In 2012-13, 287,778 eligible clients71 received hearing services vouchers for free hearing assessments, and hearing rehabilitation and, where clinically appropriate, free hearing devices.

In 2012-13, through the Community Service Obligation (CSO) Program, the Department continued funding Australian Hearing – a nationwide government agency – where eligible clients with hearing impairment can receive government-funded hearing services. Eligible clients include children and young adults up to the age of 26 years, adult clients with complex needs, clients living in rural and remote areas and eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The timeliness and quality of service delivery under the CSO Program was consistent with the agreed standards in the Memorandum of Agreement between the Department and Australian Hearing.

The Department has worked closely with DisabilityCare Australia (DCA) to allow DCA clients with hearing needs to access the range of services available under the Hearing Services Program from 1 July 2013. Arrangements also ensure that DCA will benefit from the program’s quality assurance and device (hearing aid) procurement arrangements.

Work has also been undertaken to review how devices are acquired for the Hearing Services Program. Views on the current arrangements were sought from stakeholders through a Technical Reference Group (TRG) established to provide advice on minimum device specifications. Work will continue in 2013-14, including consultation with consumers on the TRG recommendations.

In 2012-13, a better targeted, risk-based audit program to assess service providers’ compliance with their obligations was introduced. This new audit framework helps service providers to implement continuous quality improvement processes through education and engagement, supports consistent delivery of quality services to clients and ensures legislative and contractual obligations where necessary.

During 2012-13, the Department improved access to quality hearing services. Initiatives included working collaboratively with stakeholders on developing a new online portal, and with DCA and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on how the program links with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The development of an online portal has raised a number of challenges, including the importance of responding to issues and concerns identified by a diverse range of consumers and industry representatives during user acceptance testing. This has resulted in some delays in the portal going live. However, extending the development time will ensure the portal meets the needs of a diverse audience and achieves the aim of building improved communication channels with hearing service providers and consumers. This will have positive flow on effects across the program in the future.

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Support research into hearing loss prevention and management

The Department continued to support ongoing research into hearing loss prevention through the Hearing Loss Prevention Program (HLPP) and through providing funding to the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL). The HLPP supports research into measures to reduce the incidence of preventable hearing loss, targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, young people and those in the workplace. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) administers the HLPP on behalf of the Department.

Since 2008-09, 15 research projects have been funded under the HLPP, with one project being funded in 2012-13. Projects cover a range of issues, including identifying and reducing the sources of noise exposure in children and young adults, education for young children, and measures to prevent and treat otitis media (middle ear infection) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The 2012-13 project will employ innovative technology to diagnose otitis media in infants and determine the risk factors for otitis media in infants. The Department renegotiated its Memorandum of Understanding with the NHMRC during 2012-13 and all remaining HLPP funds have been transferred to this organisation. The Department will work closely with the NHMRC to allocate remaining HLPP funds to eligible projects.

Funding to the NAL has contributed to research into auditory processing, outcomes for children with hearing loss, and overcoming barriers to hearing device use.

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Outcome 7 – Financial Resource Summary

Program (A) Budget Estimate 2012-13
$’000
(B) Actual 2012-13
$’000
Variation (Column B minus Column A)
$’000
Program 7.1: Hearing Services
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1) 404,257 372,652 ( 31,605)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 1 12,269 12,224 ( 45)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 2 345 580 235
Total for Program 7.1 416,871 385,456 ( 31,415)
Outcome 7 Totals by appropriation type
Administered Expenses
Ordinary Annual Services (Annual Appropriation Bill 1) 404,257 372,652 ( 31,605)
Departmental Expenses
Departmental Appropriation 1 12,269 12,224 ( 45)
Expenses not requiring appropriation in the current year 2 345 580 235
Total expenses for Outcome 7 416,871 385,456 ( 31,415)
Average Staffing Level (Number) 81 82 1
  1. Departmental appropriation combines 'Ordinary annual services (Appropriation Bill 1)' and 'Revenue from independent sources (s31)'.
  2. 'Expenses not requiring appropriation in the budget year' is made up of depreciation expense, amortisation, make good expense and audit fees. This estimate also includes approved operating losses - please refer to the departmental financial statements for further information.

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