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Arbitrary ACC Cuts Isolate Everyday New Zealanders


New Zealand Audiological Society

Thursday 26 November 2009
Arbitrary ACC Cuts Isolate Everyday New Zealanders Dealing With Hearing Damage

The arbitrary cut to ACC cover for people with less than six percent hearing loss will leave many people affected socially isolated and with a reduced ability to do their jobs.

The New Zealand Audiological Society is opposing provisions in the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill removing ACC cover for those with less than six percent noise-induced hearing loss because of the impact of the law change on people’s lives, particularly the elderly and Māori.

“Six percent hearing loss is significant. It means a person is unable to hear clearly consonants like “s”, “t”, “f”, “th” which are critical for speech understanding, especially in noisy environments,” says Lesley Hindmarsh, President of the New Zealand Audiological Society.

“Noise damage can destroy up to 50 percent of the part of your sense of hearing specifically required to understand speech,” says Mrs Hindmarsh. “This has a profound impact on a person’s ability to work and to relate to family, friends and colleagues.

“Commonly people with less than six percent hearing loss cannot hear in work meetings, their work performance is affected because they fail to hear crucial information, they can experience social isolation, depression and strained relationships.

“The Government wants to cut ACC help for these people whose hearing damage occurred at work through no fault of their own,” says Mrs Hindmarsh.

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The proposed law change will hit:
• New Zealanders working in industries such agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, construction and engineering who, through no fault of their own, are subjected to noisy and unsafe workplaces.
• The elderly who have had their hearing damaged in these industries in the past through no fault of their own.
• Employers, who will now be faced with the employee’s right to sue for work-related hearing loss at thresholds less than “six percent”.
• Families of those with damaged hearing who have to live with the negative impact of hearing loss.
• Māori, who are over-represented in those injured with noise-induced hearing loss and under-represented in injury-related claims.

Examples of clinical cases of people with less than six percent hearing loss are described below.
The New Zealand Audiological Society has been working with ACC and others in the hearing industry to cut costs for ACC noise induced hearing loss claims.

“On behalf of New Zealanders we implore the Government to take the six percent threshold off the table and instruct the hearing sector and ACC to work together to resolve the cost pressures,” says Mrs Hindmarsh.

The New Zealand Audiological Society is the professional organisation representing qualified Audiologists and Audiology in New Zealand.


For further information please contact Lesley Hindmarsh phone 021 250 3964.

What It’s Like To Have Less Than Six Percent Hearing Loss – People’s Stories

John works fulltime in a workshop environment, where he manages staff and liaises with customers. There is constant background noise. The 56 year old struggles to cope with his hearing loss and the frustrations it creates at work. Not only is it difficult for him to hear staff and customers, he has difficulty communicating with them because he is constantly asking them to repeat themselves.

He used to be involved with community groups, but isn’t any longer because of his hearing difficulties.

And it’s not enjoyable going out any more because it is so hard to hear what is going on when other people are chatting or there is noise in the background.
John has a 4.9 percent hearing loss.

51 year old Aucklander, James relies on being able to hear and communicate to do his job as a merchandiser. He has staff to manage, clients to liaise with and colleagues to relate to. James frequently struggles in meetings to hear what is being said. Work meetings and conferences are difficult experiences for him. When he is explaining to staff the details of a new project he feels embarrassed when he isn’t able to answer their questions because he hasn’t heard them properly. His job promotion opportunities are affected.

At home his wife and children are frustrated with him and he avoids going out to cafés or restaurants because he can’t hear with all the noise in the background. In fact his wife goes out on her own, without him, so he can avoid the unpleasant experience of not being able to hear her
James has a 4.8 percent hearing loss.

As a tertiary education lecturer and someone who works with refugees and migrants to get them ready for employment, it’s crucial that Peter can communicate clearly to do his job properly.

This is difficult for the 61 year old because of the hearing damage he received while working in the auto industry.

In his work with students, he has real trouble working out which ones are talking in class or in meetings. He struggles to hear the new migrants he is meant to be helping as they are often lacking confidence due English being their second language. He has to work very hard to hear what they are saying, which is frustrating for him, and he thinks unsettling for them

His home life is affected too as he has trouble hearing his wife.
Peter has an age corrected hearing loss of 2.9 percent.

Withdrawing from her social circle and being unhappy around her grandchildren are not what Mary thought she would be doing at age 60. But Mary’s hearing means she doesn’t socialise as much as she used to.

She is often embarrassed because she can’t hear, and feels stupid when she asks people to repeat themselves. She is very frustrated and unhappy that she can’t hear her grandchildren clearly. She feels that most of the significant things in her life are significantly affected by her hearing loss.
Mary has a 5.6 percent hearing loss.

Tim is 62 years old. He admits to becoming more withdrawn from his usually active life, because his lack of hearing makes him feel left out. His work on the local golf club committee is being hampered because he gets things wrong at meetings.

Catching up with friends and family at the Club or restaurants is difficult and he feels frustrated and embarrassed. He misses out on what’s being said at church.

And when he’s at home the frustration continues as his wife has to repeat things and he misses parts of what is being said on television.
Tim has a 4.8 percent hearing loss.

First Brian withdrew from church meetings, then stopped going completely. He has been feeling hopeless when he is with friends and has been withdrawing socially.

The 81-year-old’s quality of life is suffering because of his hearing loss. He has trouble hearing his wife talking and the TV. He even avoids answering or talking on the phone because he has so much trouble understanding what the other person is saying. His family has noticed that he is becoming more isolated and seems depressed.
Brian’s hearing loss has been adjusted according to ACC calculations for his age. What was a 9.9 percent hearing loss is now considered a zero percent hearing loss by ACC.

NB first names have been changed.


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