New articles are published every month under the headings below.

Indigenous children's access to hearing aids on rise

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 and Yingara

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."

YingaraYinghara 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.

Samoa trip an eye-opener for audiologist Ashish Prasher

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

Ashish Prasher, left, during a hearing health care assessment in Samoa

Ashish Prasher

 

 

 

“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.”

Ashish in Samoa

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.”

Frankston Lions Club members help train hearing dog, Stanza, for new owner

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.

Stanza“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.

Cochlear implants key to warding off depression in older Australians

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

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.”

Setbacks serve as inspiration for Taranaki teenager

May 2018 Taranaki Daily News

Former Stratford High School student Madison Davy is the Southern Hearing Charitable Trust (SHCT) Scholarship Award 2018 winner. She is the first female to receive the scholarship, which was presented at the King and Queen Suites Hotel in New Plymouth.

Davy was born profoundly deaf and received a cochlear implant when she was 2-years-old through the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP). When she turns her implant off she hears nothing. Despite this huge challenge, she has gone on to outstanding achievements both in her academic and community life. A born leader, she lives her life as inspiration to other young people suffering hearing impairments. "I'm so grateful for the award. It is going to help me in realising my goal of a career in digital media," Davy said. "I believe being positive truly helps you rise above life's challenges - always helping others and showing them they can achieve anything they put their mind to."

Madison Davy

Madison Davy is flanked by her father Darryn and mother Kelly.

The scholarship is funding her Level 4 Information and Technology studies at Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (Witt), and an online digital media course she will complete following this.

David Kent, chairman of the SCHT Board, and an adult recipient of bilateral cochlear implants, presented the award. "Cochlear implants are life-changing and restore sound to the hearing impaired. We're very proud of Madison, and the young people she represents. We enjoy seeing them form successful careers, aware of how the implants have aided their achievements," Kent said. He added that it was inspiring to see many more deaf students transitioning from high school into university despite the challenges they faced.

Among a long list of achievements, Madison received the Principal's Award at Stratford High School (2017) for NCEA Level 2 Merit in Digital Technology, and is a member of the Deaf Aotearoa Youth Board (2017-2018), and local Parents of Deaf Children (PODC) group, where she is a role model for younger children with cochlear implants. She was also a finalist in the 2016 Attitude Awards.

Madison's biggest challenge in recent years was having spinal fusion, a major surgery to correct her severe scoliosis. "It involved a long recovery after the surgery last June and I'm still dealing with daily pain, tensed muscles and general discomfort. Managing this has helped me become a stronger woman and enhanced my outlook on life," she said.

This year Madison started a course in Information Technology at Western Institute of Technology in New Plymouth in a bid to start a career in digital media and design. "I became interested in digital media during high school, I enjoyed it and is something I believe I'm good at. I also enjoy photography," Madison said. Despite her difficulty hearing, Madison has worked out ways to overcome the barriers. "Before Madison started WITT, she explained her situations to the tutors and tell them what makes it easier for her to learn," Kelly said. Sitting at the front of the class, getting the tutors to break down the information and speak as simply and clearly as possible, and providing written notes or online links were just a few techniques that helped.

Kelly said helping and supporting others was just a part of Madison's nature and personality. "I've been active in parents' support groups over the years and Madison sometimes came along when able, so she learnt young how important helping others was.” Madison has a huge whanau who are always willing to support her and give her words of wisdom. Throughout her primary and high school years she has had resource teachers of deaf ensuring she can speak, hear and supporting her to learn well.

Fremantle Dockers’ Darcy Tucker hails vital role of hearing facility

May 2018 The West Australian

Seeing two clubmates face the challenge of raising a child with severely impaired hearing has become the driving force for Fremantle’s Darcy Tucker to get involved with the Telethon Speech and Hearing institute. Tucker and teammate Brady Grey were at the Wembley institute’s family fun day yesterday as part of the Dockers’ partnership with the organisation. Also there were Fremantle development coach Marc Webb and his wife Lisa, a star in Fremantle’s AFLW team.

The Webbs’ three-year-old son Ollie attends the institute after being diagnosed with severe to profound hearing impairment soon after birth. Ollie received a cochlear implant in March to improve his hearing.

Darcy Tucker with Webb family

The Webb family with Darcy Tucker.

“It is how I got involved,” Tucker said. “Obviously this is a great initiative for all of the kids who have hearing and speech difficulties. It is a great partnership with the club, especially with Marc and Lisa Webb, whose son Ollie has involvement here. We have seen the great things that the Telethon Hearing and Speech Centre have been able to do for Ollie and the Webb family. It is great to be a part of. It is rewarding for me as a player.”

Tucker said the institute played a vital role in preparing hearing-impaired kids for education, and taught life skills. “What they do is build kids into schooling so they learn how to speak and hear better,” he said. “It supports the families as well which is important because it is obviously tough for the families in these types of situations. They have all of the tools here to make the kids’ lives as normal as possible.”

Wollongong Private Hospital performs first cochlear implant surgery

May 2018 Illawarra Mercury

A 70-year-old man was the first patient to undergo bilateral cochlear implant surgery in the Illawarra on Friday. It’s been a long-held dream of Wollongong ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr Ekrem Serefli to bring the specialist surgery to the region, to enable “potentially thousands” of hearing-impaired residents to have the operation close to home. Dr Serefli has trained at Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital under renowned hearing implant surgeon Dr Phillip Chang, who was at Wollongong Private Hospital on Friday afternoon to assist in the surgery.

Dr Ekrem Serefli

Specialist surgery: Dr Ekrem Serefli is the only ENT surgeon in the Illawarra trained to perform cochlear implants.

“I’d estimate there’d be around 6000 people in the Illawarra who would be eligible for cochlear implants,” Dr Serefli said.  “There’s a growing number of people with post-lingual deafness which is mainly noise-induced – for instance if they’ve worked in factories or the military. It can also be due to trauma, such as a sports injury, or infection.”

For many of these people, hearing aids can be of little benefit. A cochlear implant works differently – rather than just amplifying sound, the electronic device simulates the job of the damaged inner ear (cochlea), to provide sound signals to the brain. “Those with severe to profound hearing loss can benefit greatly from cochlear implants,” Dr Serefli said. “At Wollongong Private we will be operating on adults only. The implants are switched on one week after surgery and many patients benefit immediately and continue to improve over the next three months. “Their hearing, speech and language skills improve and they become much better connected to their environment, family and community.”

Renowned Southern Highlands pioneer Dr Bruce Shepherd dies

May 2018 Illawarra Mercury

The Shepherd Centre founder and pioneer of therapy and services for children with hearing loss in Australia passed away on May 25. He was 85. Dr Shepherd and his late wife Annette were pioneers of their time. They worked tirelessly at finding an alternative to the methods available in Australia for children with hearing loss when their children Penny and Danny were both born profoundly deaf.

Dr Bruce Shepherd

Dr Shepherd

Well-known Bowral resident Dr Bruce Shepherd AM has died

 At that time, children with hearing loss were typically sent to designated schools for the deaf, often as boarders, where they were taught sign language and were isolated from their families and the hearing community. After extensive research, Bruce and Annette Shepherd embarked on a journey to America to attend the summer program at The John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles.  Impressed by this method of early intervention, Dr Shepherd brought this back to Australia where they established “The Council for Integrated Deaf Education” on Sydney University grounds – which later became known as The Shepherd Centre. 

It was the first early intervention agency to teach “Auditory-Oral Therapy” to children with hearing loss in Australia.  Starting with just five families, The Shepherd Centre now supports more than 500 families a year in NSW, the ACT and Tasmania and is continuing to grow. Dr Shepherd was also instrumental in lobbying the government for the introduction of the NSW State-wide Infant Screening Hearing (SWISH) program which was established in 2000 and is now used nationally.

His work has helped position Australia as one of the best places in the world to be born deaf with The Shepherd Centre’s outcomes for children with hearing loss incomparable. 

In 1991 Dr Shepherd was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his efforts in deaf education, teaching deaf children to speak and enabling them to attend mainstream schools with full integration. During his professional life, he became NSW state and federal president of the AMA.  He founded the Australian Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Australian Doctors’ Fund, and was first leader of both of these.  He was also President of The Australian Orthopaedic Association.

Dr Bruce Shepherd was always committed to deliver the best healthcare for all Australians. He is well known for passionately leading a group of doctors fighting the Hawke Labor Government striving to nationalise the profession.

Since its inception almost 50 years ago, The Shepherd Centre has enabled more than 2000 children to develop spoken language and experience social inclusion.

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