Territory Stories

Investigation into hearing impairment among Indigenous prisoners within the Northern Territory Correctional Services



Investigation into hearing impairment among Indigenous prisoners within the Northern Territory Correctional Services


Vanderpoll, Troy; Howard, Damien


E-Publications; E-Books; PublicationNT




"This project identified that some experienced corrections officers have developed communication skills that help them communicate more effectively with inmates with hearing loss and that the use of amplification devices can lessen communication problems experienced by inmates with hearing loss. These results suggest there are potential benefits in addressing widespread hearing loss among NT Indigenous inmates. These benefits include improved inmate management practices and enhanced wellbeing among inmates, as well as better rehabilitation outcomes and lower levels of recidivism." - Executive Summary


Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).

Table of contents

Executive summary -- Introduction -- Purpose -- Method -- Equipment -- Results -- Inmates' self-reports -- Discussion: Implications for NT Corrections - Use of amplification devices - Hearing loss as a barrier to rehabilitation -- Recommendations -- Conclusion -- Appendix -- References




Aboriginal peoples (Australians); Aboriginal prisoners; Deafness

Publisher name

Northern Territory Correctional Services

Place of publication



21 pages ; 30 cm.

File type


Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government

Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

Investigation into hearing impairment among Indigenous prisoners within the Northern Territory Correctional Services July 2011 5 4. Method This study initially tested the hearing status of Indigenous inmates within the Darwin Correctional Centre (DCC). 44 Indigenous inmates within Darwin prison were tested over two weeks. Further testing was then conducted within the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (ASCC) where 90 inmates (20% of the Indigenous prison population). In both institutions inmates also completed a verbally administered questionnaire, (see Appendix A), which elicited comments on experiences of hearing problems. All questionnaires were conducted verbally in a face-to-face setting, using hand held amplification devices with inmates found to have a hearing loss. Inmates involved in hearing screening included remand and sentenced prisoners, both male and female inmates. The average age of inmates tested within DCC was 38 years old with a range from 20 to 60 years old. The average age of inmates tested within the ASCC was 33 years old with a range from 19 to 68 years old. The combined average age over both groups was 34 years old. In total 5% of Darwin Correctional Centres Indigenous population and 20% of Alice Springs Correctional Centres were tested. In total, 13% of the total Indigenous population of NTCS have had their hearing tested. Inmates tested within the Darwin facility had volunteered to have their hearing tested. The testing was carried out by a staff member well known to inmates. Because of concerns that the high prevalence of hearing loss at Darwin prison may be related to some type of selfselection bias, at the Alice Springs facility whole groups of inmates within various sections were tested, so that a larger and more representative sample of inmates were tested. The testing protocol involved the group to be tested being verbally briefed on the hearing test, then a hearing amplification device was displayed and after testing, participants identified as having a hearing loss, were given the opportunity to wear the device and give feedback on their experiences. Before testing, information was read out to each of the participants explaining the purpose of the testing and that individual results would remain confidential. Each test took approximately 15 minutes and was conducted in one of six areas. These areas were chosen for their low level of background noise to ensure that the ambient noise was 45dBA. For the purpose of averaging individual test results across all frequencies, results greater than 90dB was scaled to 90dB which was the maximum setting on the Threshold testing devices. Hearing tests were conducted using Pure Tone Air Conduction Audiometry, following the basic audiometric test frequencies. While testing identified hearing loss among inmates the testing protocols used in this study were not able to identify the type of loss, whether conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing. An investigation that conducts a full audiological assessment on inmates is required to be able to do this. Thresholds were measured in both ears using six frequencies; 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz, 4000Hz and 8000Hz. Each frequency was threshold tested from 0 to 90dB as detailed below. <25 dB Hearing within normal limits 26-40 dB Mild hearing loss 45-60 dB Moderate hearing loss 65-90 dB Severe hearing loss >90 dB Profound hearing loss

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