Hearing Australia establishes First Nations Services Unit for children
Hearing Australia has established a First Nations Services Unit to better meet the hearing health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.
“With our dedicated First Nations team, we’re making it easier and faster for children, families and communities to get the hearing help they need,” said Kim Terrell, Managing Director, Hearing Australia.
The Unit will bring together the delivery of Hearing Australia’s three Australian Government-funded programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) program, the Community Service Obligations (CSO) component of the Hearing Services program, and the recently established Listen to Learn program.
“This will help us collaborate with our partners to provide more effective, coordinated, and culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia, regardless of their age, location or hearing need,” Mr Terrell said.
In 2020-21, Hearing Australia worked with communities across Australia to assess the hearing health of more than 10,000 First Nations children aged zero to six through the HAPEE program.
These assessments are undertaken by highly trained audiologists and are free to eligible families. Checking the ear and hearing health of young children is a critical step to preventing long-term ear disease and hearing loss for the one in four children that are being found to have undiagnosed ear disease or hearing loss, requiring referral to clinical specialists.
Hearing Australia also provided fully subsidised hearing services and devices to more than 11,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the CSO program, as well as delivering outreach services and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for over 40 years. Currently, Hearing Australia provides outreach services to 285 communities.
The First Nations Unit will work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, ear health coordinators and other key ear health stakeholders to address the high rates of ear disease and hearing loss in First Nations children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have some of the highest rates of middle ear infection, otitis media, in the world.
Hearing checks are undertaken face to face or online via telehealth. For First Nations families and communities like that of three-year-old, Luke Gleeson, based in regional NSW, the flexibility of the support services offered is invaluable.
“Through Hearing Australia, we were able to have Luke’s hearing checked by an audiologist who told us that he had mild hearing loss and his hearing was continuing to decline. Luke was then fitted for a hearing device and it has made a significant difference at this very important stage of his life where he is talking, learning and playing all the time,” said Luke’s mother Emily.
“I’ve been so happy with the help we have received. COVID-19 restrictions have made face to face appointments with our audiologist difficult, but we’ve continued to receive support and care via regular remote check-ins which has been excellent,” she added.
As well as hearing checks, the First Nations Services Unit also provides local training and support services online and in-person. Upskilling and supporting primary health care professionals and early childhood educators who care for or provide initial hearing health assessments and screenings, is an integral part of the services offered through the Unit.
For more information please see here.