Quick Facts about Hearing Services in Australia
Australia lags many other countries in refusing to recognise the audiology profession and to regulate it to the same level as other regulated health professions.
Hearing device companies are multinationals that are closely associated with many well- known clinic chains.
Diagnosing deafness in all ages from newborn to the elderly requires audiological assessment – even when a medical specialist is involved.
Hearing lossseldom exists in isolation – many with hearing loss suffer from falls, tinnitus, social isolation and communication limitations that can impact on learning, development, productivity, social inclusion and earning capacity throughout life.
Audiologists study for a minimum of 5 years at university, two of which are postgraduate study years to understand all aspects of hearing and balance…that is just one year less than it takes study to be a medical doctor. Yet, no comprehensive register of audiologists exists in Australia. Audiologists can choose to belong to professional bodies, but the only sanction those bodies have is to expel them from the membership. Anyone can call themselves an audiologist in Australia. Audiologists with or without qualifications can practice without belonging to any professional body.Professional bodies have no influence over the business practices of clinics that employ their members.
Hearing aid fitting is not the same as audiology – audiology involves diagnosing and treating all types of hearing and balance disorders of all types (not just loss of hearing, but also disordered perception, hearing unwanted noise, communication difficulty experienced by others – are some examples).The cost of hearing aids is often bundled together with diagnostic testing and rehabilitation but with little accountability of what is being provided and for what cost. Audiologists are often blamed for taking commissions for the sale of hearing devices. Some clinics with links to hearing device companies pay commissions to health funds that lack transparency. Companies that are not owned by audiologists typically audiologists to meet requirements of the Hearing Services Programme and/or Medicare. Those audiologists are typically set sales targets with no regulation on those companies because hearing device sales are considered retail businesses, where such sales tactics are expected, not healthcare worthy of regulation