Technology is Just the Beginning : The Hearing Journal
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles on the work of the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Impairment and the lessons learned from its international programs. The first and second articles in the series appeared in the April 2022 and May 2022 issues, respectively.
Isn’t it amazing how technological advances of all kinds have accelerated human progress? Our ability to connect, communicate, and learn from each other from anywhere on the planet has improved at a faster rate in recent decades than at any other time in history.
I remember when the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss (GFCHL) began its work almost 15 years ago that videoconferencing was just beginning to be used. One of our GFCHL professionals organized a Webex session between a number of parents of hearing-impaired children in Vietnam and the United States to meet and share experiences with the support of a local interpreter. We gathered around a table under a ceiling fan that buzzed in the principal’s office, where the only Wi-Fi (and unstable) access was available at a rural Vietnam school. Vietnamese parents were amazed at the video conferencing technology and were shy at first. However, they soon burst into smiles and began to nod in understanding as they heard their American counterparts share family challenges and concerns with their own children with hearing loss. At the end of the meeting, all the parents on both sides of the world were exchanging ideas freely and supporting each other. The experience was another reminder that humanity shares many more similarities than differences. It was also a good time to show how technology can improve people’s lives.
Similarly, in hearing and hearing care, advances in the form of screening devices, digital hearing aids, cochlear implants, and audiological equipment have greatly increased the potential for more young children with hearing loss to hear and parlin. However, unlike the Webex example, these technological advances (and related services) are not equitably available to many children around the world, especially those living in low-income countries. The human potential is not being fully realized, and it is time to close the gap.
WHAT IS PRAYED
A continuum of attention is required for infants and young children with hearing loss to successfully learn to listen and speak. It begins with proactive and early identification of hearing loss through pediatric auditory screening programs. The next step is for the families of these babies and young children identified with hearing loss to be informed about the diagnosis, the communication options available to their child, and to be provided with guidance on the way forward. The child must then be fit with the appropriate hearing technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. Finally, they need access to local audiology and habilitation professionals to make use of hearing technology to develop auditory and oral skills. All of these steps are equally important and necessary during the first years of a child’s life to achieve satisfactory results.
The evolution of the Internet and its related applications has improved the global accessibility of information on hearing loss and the tools to address it in children. Raising awareness is the first step in inspiring local improvements in care. The next step is to get the technologies up and running. Unfortunately, awareness of these technologies often does not include an explanation of the continuum of care and how technologies should be integrated into this continuum in order for its benefits to be fully realized. Technology is a facilitator, not a standalone solution.
For example, hearing screening is only effective if there are already services in place to address the needs of children identified with hearing loss and there are referral protocols to guide families toward these services. We have seen that health systems invest heavily in the surgical aspects of cochlear implants without adequately addressing the essential rehabilitation needs that follow. There are not enough professionals with local training to offer pediatric audiology, therapy or educational support. Governments and health insurance plans in many countries do not cover the cost of technology or associated rehabilitation services, and families bear heavy financial burdens throughout their lives to allow their children to listen.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO NEPAL
Given these universal challenges, the GFCHL addresses its programs in low-resource countries with a holistic vision and a focus on the continuum of care. For example, we have recently launched a new initiative in Nepal to address the lack of early identification and early intervention services for children with hearing loss outside the capital Kathmandu. Only about 60% of babies in Nepal are born in medical centers, and families depend heavily on health camps and community support for maternal and child health care. Thus, we are working with partners from a province of Nepal to develop an auditory screening program for newborns and children under 6 taking advantage of the existing network of community health workers who already address the health needs of these families of others. ways.
Before starting the hearing control program, however, we must first establish the necessary elements of the Attention Continuum after the identification of hearing loss. Awareness of pediatric hearing loss and the importance of timely intervention is low. Hearing and early education services for children with hearing loss from birth to age 6 are non-existent. There are no procedures to ensure a referral route and follow-up support for young children who are expected to be identified with hearing loss through the screening effort and their families.
The GFCHL is currently collaborating with our local partners and provincial government officials to address these gaps in care. A number of GFCHL training programs have been scheduled to raise awareness among community resource facilitators, nurses, other leading health care providers, teachers, community leaders, and families about pediatric hearing loss and how it can be addressed. . We are helping to identify and address human resource needs, providing audiology equipment, hearing aids, accessories and other essentials. The GFCHL is also planning several professional development workshops for audiologists, technicians and speech therapists at the local hospital. The aim is to expand their experience and technical skills in pediatric audiology and hearing-verbal therapy so that they are prepared to care for children with hearing loss from birth to 6 years and then share their knowledge with other professionals in Nepal to benefit even more. children. in the future. It is important to implement these key elements before beginning to examine infants and young children so that children have equitable access to hearing technology, services, and support to hear, speak, and thrive.
A BRIGHT FUTURE
The GFCHL aims to help young children with hearing loss from birth to 6 years of age living in countries with few resources to learn to hear and speak. By raising awareness about pediatric hearing loss, collaborating with local partners, customizing our programs to meet unique local needs, and investing in people we support in the long run, we can help more young children with hearing loss benefit. is fully aware of modern advances in technology. ear and hearing care to reach its full potential.