July 2018 Canberra Times
Yinghara Hoolihan’s parents had a gut feeling something was wrong, with recurring ear infections, behavioural problems and speech problems. During a regular a visit to Canberra's Winnunga Aboriginal Health Service he had his ears tested through an Australian Hearing outreach clinic, finding he had undiagnosed hearing loss. Soon after, he was given hearing aids to wear and had surgery to put in grommets and remove his adenoids and tonsils.
Yinghara’s eyes lit up the first time he was fitted with his hearing aids. “What’s that mummy,” he would ask as a bird chirped or a car blew its horn. His speech, behaviour and even sleep improved dramatically.
Yinghara is one of an increasing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children whose lives have been improved by getting hearing help at an earlier age.
But according to Australian Hearing, there is more work to be done to reduce the significantly higher rates of hearing problems Indigenous Australians face compared to other Australians.
Jonelle Hoolihan and son Yinghara Hoolihan 3.
Australian Hearing tracked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s hearing aid fitting data for the past 10 years. According to its research one in four Aboriginal children now receive their hearing aids before the age of five, a significant improvement from 2008 when only one in ten received them before the age of five. Acting Managing Director of Australian Hearing Kim Terrell said early access to sound was vital for children.
"The first three years is so important for learning language and learning to listen," he said. "Language connects the next generation to their family, communities and cultural stories, and sets children up for success, giving them the opportunity to reach their full potential."
Yinghara Hoolihan 3 playing on the playground.
In 2017‑18 Australian Hearing provided help to more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children. This was achieved through mainstream and outreach programs in more than 230 urban, regional and remote communities across Australia. The organisation has also launched a six-month trial of a tele-outreach service that provides a follow-up appointment with hearing impaired children in remote locations via video-chat after they are fitted with their first hearing aid.
Australian Hearing audiologist Samantha Harkus said the first few weeks with a hearing aid are critical. "It’s a time when extra support is needed,” she said. “However, in remote communities there is usually less assistance available for families."
Ms Hoolihan is confident Yinghara, with his hearing on track, will now have the best opportunities to succeed in life and education. "For Aboriginal children, ear health problems are really quite high in his age group, for us getting on top of it early and before school has definitely benefited his wellbeing and development," she said.
July 2018 Newcastle Herald
Jesmond-based audiologist Ashish Prasher says a recent humanitarian mission in Samoa has confirmed his belief that Australians “are lucky to live in a country” that has affordable hearing healthcare. Mr Prasher travelled to the Pacific Island nation last month with another four audiologists as part of ‘Hear for Good’, an initiative from independent Australian hearing health provider National Hearing Care.
Research suggests Samoa is home to more than 4,000 people with untreated hearing loss, but according to National Hearing Care the nation has no qualified audiologists. “Hearing impairment is a serious health issue in Samoa,” Mr Prasher said. “Locals catch 6am ferries and patiently wait all-day just to consult with an audiologist.
Ashish Prasher, left, during a hearing health care assessment in Samoa
“In Australia, we often take easy access to affordable hearing healthcare for granted, so it’s been extremely rewarding to offer support and solutions to those who are hearing impaired and cannot access even a free check.”
With the help of a local team, Mr Prasher and the ‘Hear for Good’ team conducted hearing tests, fitted hearing aids and educated users on hearing aid care and maintenance. The team fitted more than 300 hearing impaired locals with free refurbished hearing aids. The aids were actually provided by everyday Australians who are clients of National Hearing Care.
“Over the past few years, I have seen first-hand how hearing aids can change a person’s life, but seeing the impact for so many people at once was very powerful,” Mr Prasher said. “I had the chance to help an 11-year old boy who found school and socialising difficult because he suffered from severe hearing loss. We fitted him with hearing aids, and It was an incredibly touching moment for the team. He cried tears of joy at being able to hear the world for the very first time.”
Mr Prasher, who is originally from India but now calls Newcastle home, says the experience was the first of its kind he has taken after nine years working as an audiologist. “This was my first trip, but I’m looking forward to doing more trips in the future, I’ve heard of similar trips, but opportunities like these tend to be harder to find for audiologists compared to general doctors and nurses as the work is more specialised.”
The 34-year-old said it was his father who initially inspired him to work in the industry. He says Australians are lucky to have the hearing health care on offer. “I love the work I do and find it fulfilling to be able to help clients improve their physical and mental health,” Mr Prasher said.
“We are lucky to live in a country where free hearing checks are available to every Australian and can be easily accessed. “We encourage everyone over 50-years old to get their hearing checked annually. “I encourage all Newcastle residents to get a free hearing check at their local NHC clinic.”
June 2018 Herald Sun
STANZA wears his new orange collar with pride. A whippet cross, Stanza was presented with his collar to mark his graduation from training as an Australian Lions Hearing Dog. A helper and companion for local woman Dianne Wadsworth, Stanza was trained thanks to support from Frankston Lions Club. Members visited Ms Wadsworth’s house regularly to check that Stanza responded to a variety of sounds including the door bell, boiling kettle and smoke alarm.
“Australian Lions Hearing Dogs are trained to respond to a variety of sounds, generally around the home which they alert their owners to,” Lions member Julie Swan said.
“They hear the sound, locate the sound and then return to alert their owner by touching the owner with either one or two paws.” Ms Wadsworth has a Cochlear implant to assist with hearing.
She initially had a hearing dog named George, who passed away, before Stanza came into her life.
“He is a very loveable dog and very cheeky. He makes me laugh a lot,” Ms Wadsworth said.
“He is also a very hard worker. He is good at responding to the sounds I need.” Ms Swan said Ms Wadsworth and Stanza shared a close bond. “He follows her everywhere,” she said.
May 2018 Joondalup Times News
The joy at hearing his grandchildren’s chatter and returning to easy conversations with his wife has seen John Holsgrove become an advocate for cochlear implants. The 66-year-old psychologist from Kingsley said because of his job, he was “well aware” that dementia became a higher risk if people were not able to hear well or at all. Recent research has identified hearing loss can contribute to dementia and cognitive decline, particularly in adults over the age of 55. “This risk factor isn’t something people are generally aware of but you’re cut off socially when you’re not hearing and that has a great affect on your health,” Mr Holsgrove said. “There’s a history of dementia and Alzheimer’s on my side of the family so I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to not go down that path.”
John Holsgrove with grandchildren Alyssa 8, Amy and Callum.
Mr Holsgrove was 55 when his wife first mentioned some concerns about his hearing.
“I first thought it was criticism for not listening,” he joked. “I didn’t really believe there was much wrong with my hearing but eventually I thought to keep her happy I’ll go and get tested. “Sure enough, I did have a hearing impairment that needed hearing aids.” However, he soon found the combination of his rapidly deteriorating hearing loss and his job as a child psychologist dealing with small high frequency voices wasn’t an ideal mix.
In 2015 his hearing loss was at a level that he qualified for a cochlear implant and he met with Ear Science Institute Australia director Marcus Atlas to schedule in the surgery. “Suddenly, I was connected again and most importantly, my wife and I could have conversations again,” he said.
“Talking with my family and hearing what my grandkids were saying was a very emotional experience for me.”
Ear Science Institute Australia chief executive Sandra Bellekom said Mr Holsgrove’s experience was a good example of how much a cochlear implant can improve a person’s life. “John was able to converse with his loved ones and return to much of his life as he knew it before his hearing loss and was also aware of the positive impact that regaining his hearing could have on his future mental health.” Last year, Mr Holsgrove had a second successful surgery for a cochlear implant in his other ear. He is now an advocate for the surgery, telling people who are battling hearing loss to seriously consider the social and health risks of not doing anything at all. “Being able to have conversations is so fundamental to your essential relationships,” he said. “Cochlear implants are a little miracle to me because I’m re-engaged with the world.”