Noise injury – ACC is ignoring the facts

Published: Thu 26 Nov 2009 10:21 AM
Media Release
Embargoed for release Thursday November 26, 2009 - 10am
Noise injury – ACC is ignoring the facts
ACC is ignoring the facts when it claims noise-damaged hearing that results in total hearing loss of less than 6% is not an injury, the National Foundation for the Deaf said today.
NFD Advocacy Project Manager Chris Peters said hearing experts had numerous examples of people with damage below a total 6% whose careers and family lives had been compromised.
ACC is proposing the threshold as part of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill, which will deny cover to people whose total hearing loss is less than 6%. The proposed law states hearing damage below the threshold is not an injury.
The NFD today told parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations select committee the threshold was flawed, and should be removed.
“A 6% hearing loss does not mean a person has 94% hearing,” Peters said in a statement.
“Noise damage attacks the high-frequency part of our hearing that’s critical to our ability to decipher speech, especially in everyday environments. Damage to this part of our hearing can be substantial, and it can – and does – cause serious disruption to people’s lives.
“The problem with this legislation is that it will stop professionals assessing a person with noise-damaged hearing below 6% on the basis of need. We’re moving these decisions away from medical and audiological experts, and letting bureaucrats make the decisions, based on numbers.
“ACC has already told us that they have arrived at the 6% threshold solely on the basis of cost.”
Peters also said people culled from ACC cover would be forced to turn to a Ministry of Health funding system, where people were already waiting for up to a year for hearing aids.
“The Ministry of Health hearing aid system is struggling with capped budgets and there is no more money in sight,” he said.
“ACC is playing pass-the-parcel, not just with the dollars but with the people as well.
“The Ministry of Health has already warned ACC the projections on the ministry’s budget are wrong – by several million dollars a year – and ACC is still trying to push this through.
“We’ve got to stop and think for a minute about what’s at stake here. We’re talking about real people with real problems who have paid their ACC levies in the expectation they will be supported if they are injured.
“It’s not just a mathematical exercise.”
Peters said ACC figures showed the bulk of the current claims were coming from older people, and denying these people support after decades of work, back in a time when little thought was given to hearing protection, was a breach of faith.
It was also opening an industrial relations can of worms – people excluded from ACC cover may end up suing their employers for damages. It was also telling employers that maybe they didn’t have to do as much to protect their staff’s hearing as they were doing now.
“The bizarre thing about this is that ACC has got two universities doing research into just this very issue – industrial noise damage – and the results of that research are due back next year,” he said.
“That research is already suggesting the amount of hearing damage in industry could be declining, so why not wait for the results of that research and act on the basis of the facts?”

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