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Updated Operational Guidelines – Access

Updated Access Requirements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for people with hearing impairment

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) recently updated the NDIS Operational Guidelines in relation to the access requirements for people with hearing impairment.

 

Children and Young Adults aged 0-25 years

It appears that children and young adults aged 0-25 years identified with hearing impairment who are currently eligible to receive services under the Australian Government Hearing Services Community Service Obligations Program, will in future, qualify for services through the NDIS under the early intervention requirements.

According to the Access requirements for early intervention, the NDIA will be satisfied that a person meets the early intervention requirements without further assessment when the person:

  • is aged between birth and 25 years of age; and
  • has confirmed results from a specialist audiological assessment (including electrophysiological testing when required) consistent with auditory neuropathy OR hearing loss ≥ 25 decibels in either ear at 2 or more adjacent frequencies, which is likely to be permanent or long term; and
  • the hearing loss of the person necessitates the use of personal amplification.

This streamlined access approach for early intervention acknowledges evidence that recognises that early intervention support up to and including the age of 25 is critical for people with hearing impairment as the developing brain requires consistent and quality sound input and other support over that period to develop normally and ameliorate the risk of lifelong disability.

This same body of evidence suggests that brain development and language capability have been achieved by the age of 26. Therefore, adults aged 26 years and over are not immediately accepted to be likely to benefit from the same early intervention approach because there is no requirement to support the development of the auditory pathways. Adults aged 26 years and over with hearing impairment will therefore be assessed normally, on a case by case basis, having regard to the availability of all relevant evidence.

 

Adults 26-65 years

It is acknowledged in the Operational Guidelines that hearing impairments may result in reduced functional capacity to undertake communication, social interaction, learning and self-management activities.

Generally, the NDIA will be satisfied that hearing impairments of ≥ 65 decibels in the better ear (pure tone average of 500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz and 4000Hz) may result in substantially reduced functional capacity to perform one or more activities. This audiometric criteria reflects the lower limit of what is likely to constitute a substantially reduced functional capacity to undertake relevant activities.

Hearing impairments < 65dB decibels in the better ear (pure tone average of 500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz and 4000Hz) in conjunction with other permanent impairments (for example vision or cognitive impairments), or where there is evidence of significantly poorer than expected speech detection and discrimination outcomes, may also be considered to result in substantially reduced functional capacity to undertake relevant activities.

In addition to meeting the age and disability or early intervention requirements, it is also necessary to satisfy the residency requirements in order to qualify for the NDIS.

The additional detail provided in the revised Operational Guidelines for Access to the NDIS helps to clarify who is likely to be accepted into the Scheme.  Deafness Forum of Australia will continue to advocate for the needs of people with hearing impairment who do not qualify for the NDIS.

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