Communicating through the silence for Hearing Awareness Week.

Sydney, 21 August 2017 – One in six Australians are affected by hearing loss. This Hearing Awareness Week (21-27 August), HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, is calling on people to show their support for the more than 3.5 million Australians affected by the often invisible disability.

Hearing loss is experienced by people of all ages and to varying degrees, from moderate or severe to profound. Those affected are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression and experience higher rates of unemploymentii.

Julia Gilchrist, who was born profoundly deaf in both ears, knows firsthand about the socially isolating effects of hearing loss. Since graduating from university with an Honours degree in Communications and Politics, Julia spent more than a decade looking for fulfilling and ongoing employment. She applied for more than 200 jobs and worked in 30 different roles.

Julia wears a cochlear implant and can speak and communicate well, but says the lack of understanding and entrenched stigma around hearing loss has had a severe impact on her career.

“I interview well, so most of my roles kicked off with considerable goodwill. Many employers were very supportive at the start and wanted to do their bit by hiring a person with disability. But even the best intentions collapse without good planning and commitment to ongoing support.”

Recent data suggests that Julia’s story is not uncommon. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the workforce participation rate for people with disability is close to half the rate for people without disability (52.8% compared to 82.5%)iii . When compared with other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, Australia ranks 21 out of 29 in disability employmentiv.

Julia, who is now employed by HCF, says she has finally found a supportive and flexible work environment. She says there are simple things people can do – whether it be at work, at school or in the community like in shops and cafes – to minimise the social impact.

“Don’t mistake deafness for a lack of intelligence. It’s about adjusting how you communicate. Facing someone who is deaf when you’re talking to them, finding quiet and well lit areas to have a conversation and recapping key meeting points at work can make a big difference.”

David Brady, Chairperson of Deafness Forum Australia, the peak national body representing people who are deaf or hearing impaired, says hearing loss should be listed as a top 10 National Health Priority Area.

“Hearing loss is one of Australia’s major chronic health issues. The number of Australians affected is expected to rise to one in four by 2050, but we don’t have a national plan to meet the associated challenges.”

Hearing Awareness Week highlights the issues faced by people with hearing loss. For more information, go to Hearing Awareness Week.


Simple tips for communicating with someone with hearing loss

Do Don’t
  • Get the deaf person’s attention before starting to speak
  • Face the deaf person
  • Make sure the deaf person knows the topic of conversation
  • Speak one person at a time
  • Check the deaf person has understood you before continuing
  • Keep your mouth visible
  • Ensure your face is in good light
  • Make eye contact
  • Speak clearly, at a natural pace
  • Use an expressive face
  • Use natural gestures
  • Smile and relax!
  • Use pencil and paper if needed
  • Switch to a new topic or speaker without warning
  • Say ‘It’s not important’ or ‘It doesn’t matter’ or ‘It’s simple’
  • Start speaking if the deaf person is not looking at you
  • Talk too quickly or too slowly
  • Turn around or move away
  • Shout (this distorts your face and mouth, and can be painful for hearing aid wearers)
  • Look down or away
  • Over-exaggerate your lip pattern
  • Stand with a window or bright light behind you
  • Cover your mouth
  • All speak at the same time
  • Feel embarrassed
  • Give up

Notes: HCF covers a range of hearing loss related services including Cochlear implants (under certain Hospital Cover products) and hearing aids (under certain Extras Cover products).


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About HCF

HCF, leading not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers over 1.5 million members with health and life insurance, community care, travel and pet insurance. On average over the last five years, HCF has paid out more cents in every dollar in premiums to members as benefits than the industry average. With over 35,000 specialists participating in its Medical Gap Cover Scheme and approximately 10,000 providers participating in its 100% back More for You programs, HCF gives members access to quality health care with no gaps or minimal costs compared to non-participating providers. To empower members to put their health first, HCF also offers a range of health and lifestyle services including its My Health Guardian health management program, mobile Victor Chang Health Checks and My Global Specialist second opinion service. HCF’s national network of retail outlets and Australian-based call centres have earned multi-award winning status. HCF members also have access to low cost, high quality services at HCF Dental Centres and HCF Eyecare Centres. Having contributed $50 million to support the health services research funded by the HCF Research Foundation, HCF is devoted to investing in the future of Australia’s health. To learn more about HCF go to


iMental health in deaf adults: symptoms of anxiety and depression among hearing and deaf individuals, 2007, Kvam, M.H., Loeb, M., Tambs, K
iiABS data, Disability and Labour Force Participation, 2012
iiiABS data, Disability and Labour Force Participation, 2012
ivSickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers – A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries, 2010