Date published: 
4 March 2020
Media type: 
General public

I thank the Hearing Care Industry Association for inviting me to this breakfast.

I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the Australian Government’s work to help improve the hearing health of Australians.

I also acknowledge Senator Richard Colbeck, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians; Hon Stuart Robert MP, Minister for NDIS; Hon Chris Bowen; Senator Rachel Siewert; co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of Hearing Health and Deafness—Dr Fiona Martin and Dr Mike Freelander; and a warm welcome to Dr Michael Wooldridge, CEO, HCIA and former Federal Health Minister.

I also appreciate the personal stories shared this morning.

We have heard today that in Australia, about 3.95 million people have some form of hearing loss.

This number includes me.

I have hearing loss and wear hearing aids because of industrial deafness.

My hearing loss was caused by years of working on a farm, without hearing protection.

If nothing else, I want to serve as a warning to others about what not to do.

Look after your hearing because, as this new research reveals, it is estimated that hearing loss in Australia will increase to around 7.78 million people by 2066 which equates to about one in four Australians.

Hearing loss can be devastating for the individual, but it also affects families, loved ones and the wider community.

We know people can be socially and economically isolated when they can’t hear well, or at all.

Estimates put the cost of hearing loss to the Australian economy at around $20 billion.

We know that delays in the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss, in young children especially, can result in a lifelong reduction in language and communication skills.

As the Minister responsible for hearing, I want all Australians who have hearing loss to achieve a better quality of life.

Whether hearing loss happens at birth, early in life or later in life—we know that timely and effective interventions are the key.

Our Government’s Hearing Services Program works to reduce the incidence and consequences of hearing loss in the community.

The program provides high quality hearing services and devices to some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.

This important program also provides children and young adults with hearing aids and cochlear speech processor upgrades.

It also helps with assistive listening technology to help people better hear the TV, doorbell and smoke alarm.

The Government has committed $582 million to the Hearing Services Program for 2019-20.

This is for hearing tests and assessments, and the fitting of subsidised devices.

It also includes the provision of targeted services to children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, and people living in rural and remote communities.

I encourage everyone here to talk about the hearing and the support available to your families and communities so people get the help they need when and where they need it.

I thank the HCIA for their constructive partnership with the Government and its leadership in an important part of the health sector.

By funding and updating this critical research, you are helping us all to continue our work together to improve the hearing health of all Australians now and into the future.

Thank you.