A team from Western University’s audiology program has just returned from the Attawapiskat First Nation on James Bay where they travelled to provide care and promote hearing health among youth in the community as part of an outreach program launched by Western five years ago.
Jack Scott, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Western University, and two audiology graduate students made their way to the remote Northern Ontario community on April 6, 2014 where they performed preschool hearing tests, assessed adult patients, established connections with relevant health care professionals and implemented solutions to deal with existing hearing healthcare issues in the community.
“The prevalence of hearing-related issues and their impact on northern Canada’s Aboriginal youth has been an area of concern,” says Scott. “Also, hunting is an important source of food and cultural identity in the community, but this tradition unfortunately exposes children and adults to excessive noise levels from firearms.”
Upon realizing the need for additional audiology services in this remote area, and the potential learning opportunity, Western’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders created an outreach program to promote hearing health in such locations. Since the program’s launch in 2010, Scott has traveled to the remote community annually.
A large part of the team’s work has also been placing amplification systems, provided by the Hear The World Foundation, in schools to offset reduced hearing resulting from middle ear infections. Given the infrequent accessibility to health care in remote northern areas, soundfield FM amplification systems are a viable option for overcoming noise in the classroom for preschool children with reduced hearing capabilities until appropriate medical treatment is available.
“During the previous years testing the children, I saw a prevalence of wax and possible middle ear fluid, which increases the risk for reduced hearing sensitivity,” says Scott. “By installing the FM systems in schools, the hope is that children can better hear their teachers during times where hearing may be reduced.”
This year, the team also visited the Kashechewan First Nation, south of Attawapiskat, to extend the service to an additional community.  Assistance in calibration and shipping of the vital assessment equipment to Kashechewan was provided by Starkey Canada.
“If we identify issues with hearing early on, those children have a better chance in getting the necessary treatment they need to facilitate speech and language development, which is fundamental in their learning and socialization,” says Scott. “My hope is that engaging audiology students in the process will foster stewardship of the profession and the importance of social justice in their future careers.”
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