March 2020 The Sector
A new report, released in line with Hearing Awareness Week (1-7 March) and World Hearing Day (3 March), has reinforced the value of early intervention for children living with hearing loss, finding that there are long term cash benefits of up to $500,000 per child when intervention occurs in the early years of life.
Deafness is the most common disability among children in the western world. In Australia, the incidence rate rises from one in every 1,000 babies at birth to one in 300 children by school age (due to acquired and developing hearing loss), making the research of interest to those working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. The latest Sound Outcomes Report, produced by First Voice, found that early intervention programs provided an average benefit of $497,000 for each child with bilateral hearing loss in the 2018 financial year. These benefits include long and short-term wellbeing, education, economic gains and financial benefits. The study also revealed that children supported by early intervention develop listening and speaking skills on par with (or above) that of their hearing peers. It showed that 86 per cent of First Voice graduates with hearing loss alone had speech and language skills within or above the normal range, just above the 84 per cent of typically hearing children who fall within the same level.
The research is one of the largest datasets globally for children with hearing loss, which involved 1,433 children and their families supported by First Voice organisations in 2018 across Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Mr Mark Fitzpatrick, Chair of First Voice, said that the Sound Outcomes Report “affirms the significant benefits of early intervention – not only for the children and their families, but also for the community more broadly. Our research shows that these children mature into productive members of society with high levels of education, social participation and full-time employment, despite their hearing loss. It is absolutely crucial to ensure that children with hearing loss are set up for lifelong success with access to early intervention support services,” he added.