Australian Hearing has its origins in the Acoustic Research Laboratory, set up in 1942 to investigate military problems associated with noise, such as the efficiency of communication systems in noisy environments and protecting military personnel's hearing.
The laboratory's role was changed in 1945 to take on the assessment and rehabilitation of children affected by two rubella epidemics in Australia (1939-1941).
In 1947, the Acoustic Research Laboratory was renamed the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories and taken over by the then Commonwealth Department of Health. Initially the services were only available for children and veterans.
Between 1948-49, branches were established in every state.
In 1968, the Department of Social Security pensioners became eligible for hearing services.
In 1973, the organisation had another name change, becoming the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL).
In 1992, NAL became a Commonwealth Government Statutory Authority and was renamed Australian Hearing Services. The name National Acoustic Laboratories was retained by Research.
In 1993, eligibility was extended to part pensioners. In order to manage the increase in demand, private providers were contracted to provide services on behalf of Australian Hearing.
In 1996, the Government announced the introduction of a voucher system for hearing services, greater private sector involvement in the provision of government-funded services, and some important administrative changes to separate the purchaser and provider roles.
In March 1997, the Office of Hearing Services (OHS) was formally established to regulate and administer the hearing services program. The hearing market was deregulated and Australian Hearing now has almost 200 competitors nationally.
In 2004, Australian Hearing came under the newly formed Department of Human Services.
Now, with 110 permanent centres and almost 300 visiting sites grouped into six regions, Australian Hearing is the nation's largest hearing service provider. More than 1,000 employees across Australia provide hearing services to age pensioners, veterans, children and young people and Indigenous Australians over 50. For full details of our eligibility criteria see here. Standards Advisers provide staff development, expert advice, review and set clinical standards, and monitor the quality of service delivery.
Initially hearing aids were imported from the USA, but as these were expensive, the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories started designing and manufacturing their own hearing aids, at first on their own and later in a joint venture with Bernafon. This arrangement ceased in 2003 and Australian Hearing is no longer involved in designing or manufacturing hearing aids.
Australian Hearing has made a large contribution to the understanding and treatment of hearing loss via its research arm, the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL). NAL has established a world-wide reputation as a leader in acoustic research. Recently, NAL has developed Telscreen, a telephone hearing test, and LiSN-S, a hearing test for children with auditory processing disorder.