Expanding Hearing Screening And Treatment In Remote Australia

Date published

12 Dec 2019

A new collaboration between Hearing Australia and the Royal Flying Doctor Service will see innovative hearing screening tools adopted and rolled out across the country as part of RFDS primary health care clinics to remote areas.

Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert MP, today announced the collaboration from the RFDS airbase in Jandakot, Perth.

‘Many children and adults in remote areas miss out on hearing screening and specialist services, which is why this collaboration is so important,’
Minister Robert said.

RFDS clinicians will be using new tools developed by the internationally recognised research division of Hearing Australia, the National Acoustic Laboratories, to help identify young children who may have hearing problems.

‘Until now, there hasn’t been a scientifically proven approach to doing this in a primary health care setting.

‘This is consistent with the Australian Government’s commitment to making it easier for Australians to access services across Australia,’
Minister Robert said.

After successful trials conducted by Hearing Australia and the RFDS in Western Queensland in 2018 and the Broken Hill region in 2019, the collaboration will see the rollout of additional, innovative hearing screening tools, training and hearing referral pathways across Australia over the next year.

Mr Kim Terrell, the Managing Director of Hearing Australia, highlighted the importance of the collaboration and the support of the RFDS.

‘It’s important we work together to improve access to hearing services across Australia and prevent hearing loss, particularly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,’
Mr Terrell said.

‘This is an important milestone and we look forward to working with the RFDS to make a real difference to the lives of people across Australia.’

The evaluation report can be accessed here

  • When does the collaboration start? It’s already started! The co-designed Hearing Program Toolbox has been out for consultation with RFDS teams around the country, and feedback and uptake has been positive. Ear care has always been part of primary health care, but now, through the Hearing Program toolbox, teams are now also able to upskill in the area of hearing screening. This means that they can make full hearing health checks available to the adults and children they see at their remote clinics, many of whom may not ordinarily have access to hearing health checks.
  • When will be the first time we use it? We expect the first RFDS primary health teams to begin using new tools from the Hearing Program Toolbox at the beginning of March.
  • How do the tools work? There are a range of tools, from portable pieces of equipment that assess in a variety of ways how well the ear is working, to validated parent checklists to assess whether children’s listening and talking skills are on track. 
  • How many clinicians will be involved? RFDS provides over 1500 remote primary health clinics per year and it will be available to all of these teams.
  • What is the reach? 55,000 people in remote communities across the country used RFDS fly-in GP and Nursing clinics last year. 
  • How will people be trained? Combination of online, tele-methods and face to face.
  • How many will be trained? Open to all RFDS clinicians. Many clinicians already have training in some aspects of hearing health, as ear care is core primary health business. Through the toolbox, clinicians will have access to upskilling around a range of ear and hearing aspects of primary health care. 
  • What will be the referral process for kids and adults? Determined locally, using existing pathways. Where pathways aren’t clear, Hearing Australia will assist RFDS to find them.
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