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Deaf workers denied hearing aids

Wednesday, 28th August, 2013

Eighty-year-old Brian Fenton is hoping his hearing aids will outlast him after the NSW Government pushed through cuts to compensation for deafness caused by noisy jobs. Eighty-year-old Brian Fenton is hoping his hearing aids will outlast him after the NSW Government pushed through cuts to compensation for deafness caused by noisy jobs.

By Erica Visser

Hundreds of local people who require hearing aids will be forced to fork out thousands of dollars due to NSW Government cuts to compensation.

From December 31, hearing aids for people who suffered hearing loss through loud working conditions will no longer be listed under WorkCover.

The cuts mean that those affected - mainly old age pensioners - would be forced to either come up with around $6000 for hearing aids or rely on an inferior and bulky basic pair supplied by the Federal Government.

One deaf man, Brian Fenton, said that the cuts were “devastating news” to the many people who had not been protected from harmful noise at work.

“I was a boilermaker when I served my apprenticeship and there was no hearing protection or head protection. 

“We didn’t know the dangers,” Mr Fenton said.

“I worked in a building made of corrugated iron with a concrete floor and 90 other people all bashing at the same time.

“You can imagine it was pretty noisy but the underground miners, their situation was even noisier.

“Those that are eligible really need to get in while they can before the end of the year.”

The 80-year-old said that he was shocked when Murray-Darling Hearing Services Audiometrist Glen Carter informed him that the compensation had been dropped.

“It’s just a bit of a shock they’ve dumped it. 

“I’ve had this pair for two or three years but I’m hoping they will outlive me.”

Mr Fenton said that the hearing aids he received through the mines and insurance company compensation were much better than the standard pair offered by the Commonwealth Government.

“Oh yeah, far superior. It would be a step back to have to get the Government ones,” he said.

“They don’t work as well and when you’re deaf, people think you’re stupid.

“Also, a lot of people wouldn’t feel comfortable in them because they’ve got that moulding that goes in your ears and you can feel them.”

Mr Carter, who has visited the city monthly to see patients since 1999, said that most would be affected by the unexpected changes.

The cuts had already been put through State Parliament, along with a range of changes to the WorkCover policy.

“The hearing aids have always been provided to the claimant with the understanding that they will be maintained and replaced when required for the rest of the claimant’s life,” Mr Carter said.

“I have been attending Broken Hill since 1999 and have assessed the hearing of over 2000 people and in 95 per cent of cases these people have all suffered some degree of hearing loss that has been caused from excessive noise in their workplace.

“A lot of my clients are very angry and concerned about the decision to take this important entitlement away from them.

“My advice to people would be to pursue this important entitlement before it is taken away on December 31.”

Mr Carter said that these changes would affect the quality of life of patients who were forced to accept the Government’s basic option after their current hearing aids expired.

“Hearing loss caused by noise exposure is permanent and requires technologically advanced hearing aids to overcome the problems that people have to deal with.”

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