New referral information for health services providers

A guide for who, when and how to refer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients to Australian Hearing.

Download the fact sheet here.

Who are we and what do we do?

Australian Hearing audiologists provide long-term support to children and adults with hearing loss to help them hear and communicate to the best of their ability. We fit hearing aids and other devices, provide communication skills counselling and introduce clients to other hearing support services.

Hearing aids are free to all children and adults under 26 years of age and eligible adults including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over the age of 50. As an option, we also supply batteries, maintenance and repair services for a low annual fee.

Australian Hearing was established in 1947 and delivers services through the Government’s Hearing Services Program.

We work in more than 240 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We provide upskilling to health services in the area of hearing health. Please ask us about this.

Who and when to refer to Australian Hearing?

Ask Adults, ‘Are you having trouble hearing?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ and they are eligible for the Hearing Services Program, please refer. The Hearing Services Program covers:
  • Children and young adults under the age of 26 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who are over the age of 50 or are Community Development Program participants
  • Pension card holders (age, disability, single parent)
  • Most veterans
  • NDIS participants with hearing needs in their plan
Refer children and young adults from birth up to and including 25 years when:
  • A baby is diagnosed with permanent hearing loss in one or both ears. This may include sensorineural hearing loss and absent ear canals. Prompt referral is critical for children to develop optimal language and communication.
  • A child has passed newborn hearing screening, there are risk factors for hearing loss AND family believe hearing is deteriorating. These include:
    • Family history of permanent hearing loss in childhood
    • Bacterial meningitis
    • Chemotherapy
    • Syndromes related to hearing loss
    • Serious head injury
    • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) during pregnancy or
    • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) after birth
  • A child is aged under three years and both ears are chronically discharging
  • A child has middle ear disease and an average hearing loss greater than 30dBHL in the better ear, that has persisted beyond three months.
  • The parent/carer has a high degree of concern and thinks their child may need hearing aids.
If you are unsure whether to refer, call us on 131 797 or discuss with your visiting audiologist.

Who provides hearing health care?

Primary health identifies & manages ear health problems. They arrange hearing evaluation when indicated, often to a secondary diagnostic hearing service. The results of the hearing evaluation help primary health with referral decisions. If hearing loss that could be assisted by hearing technology is diagnosed, rehabilitation services like Australian Hearing are referred to.

Recommendations for good hearing health practice

These are practical steps you can take to monitor children’s hearing health:

1. Check whether baby had their hearing screened at birth and what the results were.
2. Hearing loss can occur at any age, even after a pass on newborn screening. Ask regularly how children’s listening skills are developing. As a guide, toddlers with no hearing problems are able to do these things by the age of 1 year, most of the time:
  • Respond to their name when they are called, in quiet and noise
  • Recognise familiar people by their voice, without seeing them
  • Notice sounds in their environment such as cars, birds, or a knock at the door.
3. Otitis Media can start soon after birth, is often invisible and more likely to become chronic if missed. Check baby’s ear health at every visit or at scheduled intervals: examine ears with an otoscope, add tympanometry from six months, and hearing checks from 3.5 years.
4. Use the Otitis Media Guidelines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children