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ACC’s Hearing Threshold will Result in Delays

Media Release
15th October 2009

ACC’s Hearing Threshold will Result in Further Delays

ACC’s 6% threshold for hearing loss could see people with noise-damaged hearing being denied services vital to their professional and personal lives, the National Foundation for the Deaf said today.

It could also force those people on to the already overloaded hearing support system provided by the Ministry of Health, where people are waiting for up to a year for hearing aids.

Chris Peters, NFD Advocacy Project Manager, said audiologists had recently given ACC examples of people with noise-damaged hearing between 4% and 5% whose professional and personal lives had suffered serious impact.

“Noise-damage affects the area of our hearing that we use to discriminate one sound from another,” Peters said.

“Many audiologists believe it is inequitable to use a single measure to judge hearing loss.

“We will be seeking more detail on how ACC plans to implement this threshold, and whether there will be the flexibility to cater for people whose lives have been affected by noise damage but who do not reach the 6% criteria.”

Peters said a person’s noise-damaged hearing still needed to be treated, and if ACC denied support, the person would become the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.

“Audiologists have already raised concerns that the wait for hearing aids under the Ministry of Health system has blown out to up to a year. All ACC is doing is passing the case to another government agency.

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“In the long run, the government is still paying but the person at the centre of all this – the person whose life has been disrupted by noise-damaged hearing – is the one who is suffering,” he said.

The 6% threshold could also deny older people support they needed if they claimed for hearing damaged during their working lives.

ACC assumed all men over the age of 57 and women over 65 already had some natural hearing loss, and this was taken into account when it considered claims for noise damage, he said.

If the 6% threshold was added to the age-related scale, people with noise-damaged hearing could be in more danger of being denied the support they needed and were entitled to.

“Many people who will be making claims now grew up during a time when little thought was given to noisy working environments or hearing protection and their damaged hearing is the result,” Peters said.

“Without noise damage, they might have been able to cope quite well with whatever natural decline they might have. If they are now denied support because ACC has decided to add the 6% threshold to the age scale, that will be unfair.

“People might think 6% is not much of a hearing loss, but depending on where that loss occurs, it can be devastating,” concluded Peters.”

ENDS

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