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Hearing Damage – Get In Quick

Hearing Damage – Get In Quick

New Zealanders with damaged hearing should get their claim in to ACC now if they want their cases treated on merit, says the National Foundation for the Deaf.

The government this week passed legislation that makes fundamental changes to the way ACC treats hearing injuries.

However the changes to the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Act, which will affect people with hearing damage resulting in a total hearing loss of less than six percent, do not come into effect until July 1.

“The government has passed this law under urgency and a significant group of people, especially the elderly, is going to suffer,” NFD General Manager Louise Carroll said today.

“Our primary objection is that this law removes the ability of hearing professionals to judge a case on its merits. Now a person must be over the 6% threshold for ACC assistance to kick in.

“We’re going to continue to oppose this, but in the meantime, the only advice we can give to people who have damaged hearing is to get to an audiologist now, get their hearing assessed, and if they have hearing damage, get their claim in to ACC as quickly as possible.”

Ms Carroll said the government and ACC refused to listen to scientists and groups from across the hearing disability sector, that the changes were wrong, were bad science, and were not justified.

She said the changes were also made without waiting for the results of research ACC itself had commissioned from Auckland and Massey Universities, which was due back later this year.

“The amendment to the Act is driven by the growing cost of servicing claims from people with hearing damage, but the university research models suggest this is a bubble that is passing, and ACC’s own statistics tend to support this as the number of claims is starting to decline,” Ms Carroll said.

“It’s bizarre ACC has commissioned research then is making changes without waiting for the results.”

One of the changes in the new legislation specifically excludes age-related hearing loss from coverage by ACC, but Ms Carroll said this was based on poor science.

“The experts tell us that it’s impossible to separate noise damage and age-related hearing loss,” she said.

“Scientists believe noise damage can actually accelerate age-related hearing loss – it ages hearing – and that as the new law stands medical specialists cannot accurately meet the new standards.

“The decision-makers cannot seem to accept that noise damage affects the area of our hearing that helps us decipher speech in everyday situations, and to get a total hearing loss of six percent, the damage can be substantial.

“Six percent hearing loss does not mean a person has 94 percent hearing.”


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