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National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL)

2018-19 was a year of transformation for the NAL to ensure it meets its mission to lead the world in hearing research and evidence-based innovation to improve hearing health and transform the lives of people with hearing difficulties.

An organisational restructuring was undertaken to create a more agile organisation and a Project Management Office was created, along with a Research Council and a Scientific Advisory Group. A new logo for NAL was also created that represents a more contemporary and innovative brand.

New Nal LogNew logo for the National Acoustic Laboratories

A balanced scorecard was introduced that tracked key performance metrics on innovation, financial stability, stakeholder management and project success.

New research approaches were introduced during the year. A behavioural economics study began to understand hearing health decision-making behaviour. Design thinking initiatives were conducted that focused on several of the strategic objectives, including understanding (i) the needs of those with unilateral hearing loss, (ii) the potential benefits of connected health technology in audiology, and (iii) the unmet needs of people with hearing difficulty but no audiometric hearing loss.

A total of fifteen projects were successfully completed during the year, including two projects funded by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hearing health. Funding for the Hearing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) ended at the end of the fiscal year and the CRC-funded research projects were successfully completed, meeting all Commonwealth milestones.

The Longitudinal Outcomes of Children with Hearing Impairment (LOCHI) project successfully completed Wave 2. A special issue on the Wave 1 outcomes was published in the International Journal of Audiology, detailing the significant findings from the five-year check-in. Funding for the execution of Wave 3 in 2019-20 was received from the Department of Health.

A number of new sponsored programs and projects were also created. These include a Research Program for Hearing Australia that will provide funding for four projects in 2019-20.

Successful collaborations with commercial partners continued, with four projects initiated and three projects completed during the year. A formal process was put into place for licensing NAL-developed technology, which was used to identify candidates and manage potential licensees for two NAL technologies.

Research highlights include:

  • the age-five LOCHI results showing the benefit of early intervention with hearing aids and cochlear implants towards language ability
  • the development of a simple tool that can be used by teachers and parents to identify hearing loss in children
  • the evaluation of a commercial tele-audiology tool, demonstrating the benefits from a connected health approach to hearing health services
  • the development of an ecological momentary assessment app that can be used to better understand the experiences of people with hearing loss in the real world
  • the development and implementation of an online tool for assessing the hearing needs of people seeking advice about their hearing.