NACCHO #HearingAwarenessWeek : Two very moving stories from the Aboriginal Hearing Program

Win 2 - Copy

” Canberra mother Rebecca Lester, of the Wonnara Nation from the NSW Hunter Valley, has praised Canberra’s Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Services Aboriginal Hearing Program for saving her daughters hearing and supporting her look forward to a productive and promising school career.

Every year program officers undertook surveillance tests at more than 30 Government Koori Pre Schools or primary schools throughout the national capital.

Last year we tested about 400 children from pre-schools or primary schools with a significant additional number of hearing tests being conducted as a result of referrals under Winnunga’s ongoing allied health programs.”

Julie Tongs CEO Press Release : Pic Kyha wearing her special hi-tech hearing aid.

It’s Hearing Awareness week. Hearing loss is over represented among prisoners, and Aboriginal people are over-represented in our gaols. Here’s a short story from the criminal justice system.

Around 15 years ago we saw a 32 year old Aboriginal woman. She had been in and out of prison 18 times: once a year since she turned 18.

She was brought in to see the Ear Specialist at an Aboriginal Medical Service, where we were working on the day. This was the first time help had been sought for her ears and hearing.

Read her full story (2 ) Below

From Hearing Awareness Facebook

NACCHO and many of our members throughout Australia are celebrating Hearing Awareness Week 21-28 August INFO HERE

Hearing

Story 1

“We knew our youngest daughter, Kyha, had hearing problems although we didn’t fully appreciate the extent of the problem until she was about two-and-half years old,” Rebecca said.

“Until then she suffered from continual middle ear infections and general poor health.

“However, as a three year old she began attending one of Canberra’s Koori Pre –Schools, Narrabundah Early Childhood School and was scheduled for a routine hearing check by Winnunga’s Hearing Program team.

“She was tested and the test found that she had hearing loss in both ears as a result of her middle ear infection problems.

“Winnunga continued to monitor Kyha and subsequently Winnunga facilitated surgery at Canberra’s John James Hospital for grommets to be inserted in both ears.

“That was wonderful”.

However, as Winnunga’s audiologist Jeanette Scott explained the insertion of the grommets failed to overcome Kyha’s hearing problems and it was decided, after further tests, that Kyha may be best assisted by having a special hearing aid fitted.

“Kyha was then referred to Australian Hearing – a Federal Government funded program – who provide hearing aids for children”, Jeanette said

“This hearing aid is called a bone conduction aid and bypasses the middle ear via a vibrator (bone conductor) that normally sits on the bony area of the skull, just behind the ear.

“In Kyha’s case it is part of a specially fitted headband and its capacity can be adjusted via a computer program that enables the hearing aid to respond best to different voice patterns.

“It is a marvellous piece of new hearing technology”, said Rebecca.

“Kyha wouldn’t be without it.

“We got a laugh when one day, when the batteries were running a bid flat Kyha ran up to me and said:

“Mummy, mummy, it’s not talking to me”

Rebecca added that although it was attached to a headband and initially some pre-schoolers were inquisitive and asked about it, nowadays it is just something Kyha wears every day and they accept it as being normal everyday wear.

“But it has made such a big difference to Kyha’s life and the wellbeing of our family,” said Rebecca who is the manager of the long day care component of the Narrabundah Early Childhood School’s programs.

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When we visited the school Kyha was talking to Winnunga’s trainee Ear Health worker Reeion Murray (pictured above with Kyha’s mum Rebecca (middle) and Kyha)  , a Wiradjuri man from Dubbo, who has now worked within the program for just over l8 months and has nearly completed his Aboriginal Health Worker qualifications with specialisation in ear hearing health.

“Kyha just fits in. She’s a really happy little girl,” said mother Rebecca.

Winnunga’s CEO Julie Tongs said the program –originally known as the Otitis Hearing Health Program – had operated from Winnunga for more than 14 years.

“In fact, back in 2006-2007 we reviewed the program so that it was more widely promoted”.

Ms Tongs said every year program officers undertook surveillance tests at more than 30 Government Koori Pre Schools or primary schools throughout the national capital.

“Last year we tested about 400 children from pre-schools or primary schools with a significant additional number of hearing tests being conducted as a result of referrals under Winnunga’s ongoing allied health programs.

Ms Tongs said given the still unacceptably high levels of hearing problems within the Aboriginal population such programs as the hearing health program made a significant difference.

“They are hugely important,” Ms Tongs said.

“We know, over the years, this program has made a big difference to the hearing health of thousands of members of Canberra and District’s Indigenous population.”

Story 2

It’s Hearing Awareness week.

HAW

Hearing loss is over represented among prisoners, and Aboriginal people are over-represented in our gaols.

Here’s a short story from the criminal justice system.

This woman had moderately severe hearing loss in her better ear and severe hearing loss in her worse ear, caused by ear infection.

When talking with this lady, she always looked tense. She watched people intently while they talked, always frowning. She sat on the edge of her seat, hunching towards me.

For someone who could only possibly hear fragments of words, she communicated well. Behind the scenes, she was working hard to do this: putting what she could hear and see together to make sense of what I was saying.

I asked her how she managed in a court room. When questions were asked, could she hear them? She said she guessed what she was being asked, and answered that.

I asked her about how she managed day to day in prison. She went regularly to rehab meetings, a round circle discussion, but couldn’t hear so didn’t contribute.

As she was growing up, she had wanted to be a receptionist in a doctor’s surgery. One day she realised that she could never do that, because people at the counter needed to be able to speak discreetly. Raising their voices so that the receptionist could hear would never do.

She was put on the waiting list for surgery, and in the meantime the prison agreed to provide a hearing aid for her.

When we saw her after her hearing aid fitting, she was a changed woman: she was wearing the aid and smiling, not frowning. She was sitting back in her chair looking relaxed.

She talked about the difference for her: she could talk to her mum over the phone. She could take part in rehab discussions and was finding that was good. She said ‘There’s nothing better than being able to hear’.

Later we heard that she had become the Koori Women’s Delegate at the prison: representing the interests of Aboriginal women in prison with her. Being able to hear easily enabled her to start realising her own potential.

Then she left prison and we lost contact. I often wonder where she is and what she is doing now. She had a major influence on me.

 

 

 

 

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