NACCHO Aboriginal Health #HearingAwarenessWeek : Importance of ear health for our mob

 

DR KK 3 Hearing awareness week is a good time to reflect on the impact of poor hearing. Unfortunately we get so involved in social outcomes; we are often bombarded with information and misinformation.

I admit I am so intense with ears, to the point were I can have a conversation and lose my friend from talking too much “medicine”. I thought it might be nice to go back to basics to help the understanding for the community.”

Dr Kelvin Kong, an ear, nose and throat specialist gives us the score on Otitis Media and the importance on ear health for Hearing Awareness Week writing for IndigenousX see part 2 below

DR KK

See Previous NACCHO story about Dr Kong

Kelvin hails from the Worimi people of Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Being surrounded by health, he has always championed for the improvement of health and education.

Complementing his practice as a surgeon, he is kept grounded by his family, who are the strength and inspiration to him, remaining involved in numerous projects and committees to help give back to the community.

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“Hearing is all about connection,’ Kristen said.‘Hearing enables us to connect and communicate – whether you’re in school, a family or a workplace.This Hearing Awareness Week please cherish your hearing and take steps to protect it.”

Apunipima audiologist Kristen Tregenza, works across eleven  remote Cape York communities identifying hearing issues, has a message for all ages this Hearing Awareness Week (21-27 August 2016).

Cherish Hearing this Hearing Awareness Week

Littlies: Kids need to hear to learn how to talk, behave, learn and communicate. Kids are most susceptible to ear infections (which, if left untreated can cause permanent hearing loss) between the ages of nought – four.

Kristen’s advice for parents of littlies:

  • Never smoke around children as smoke damages the lining of little ears
  • Teach your children to wash their hands and blow their nose to minimise risk of infections
  • Whenever you take your child to the health centre, no matter what for, ask the them to check your child’s ears
  • Fill your child’s ears with stories, words, poetry and songs

Teenagers: Kristen is seeing many teenagers with first stage hearing loss due to playing music too loudly through headphones.

Kristen’s advice for teenagers:

  • If your ears ring after the music has stopped, your music was too loud.
  • Either turn the sound down a bit, or listen for a shorter period.
  • Experiment to see how loud you can have it without causing ringing in your ears

Adults: Adults can experience hearing issues for a range of reasons – from industrial noise to undiagnosed issues earlier in life.

Kristen’s advice for adults:

  • Take it seriously – we need to cherish the hearing. Look after the hearing you have and manage what you don’t
  • Head to your local health centre and ask for a hearing check

Dr Kelvin Kong, an ear, nose and throat specialist gives us the score on Otitis Media and the importance on ear health for Hearing Awareness Week.

Hearing awareness week is a good time to reflect on the impact of poor hearing. Unfortunately we get so involved in social outcomes; we are often bombarded with information and misinformation. I admit I am so intense with ears, to the point were I can have a conversation and lose my friend from talking too much “medicine”. I thought it might be nice to go back to basics to help the understanding for the community.

One of the things I did not want to do is create a non-readable document that we tend to do in medicine. So this is a straightforward guide to otitis media (ear infection), as I would explain to my patients.

The name itself is confusing. In medicine we forget that we have assumed another language, based on Greek and Latin words. Otitis comes from late 18th century: modern Latin, from Greek ous, ōt- ‘ear’ and itits, meaning inflammation. So Otitis, just means inflammation of the ear. Media, again Latin in origin, means middle layer. So, Otitis media is simply inflammation of the middle layer of the ear.

The ear is divided into 3 parts. An outer, middle and inner part.

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Outer ear: The outer ear consists of the auricle or pinna, that is, the bit we can see. Yes some people have various names for them, some not so kind (wing nut, dumbo, Billy Big Muku’s etc), in my language, Gathang, it is known as the “Muku”. This is often decorated with piercings or multiple piercings in some cases.

The outer ear also has a tunnel that leads to the Ear Drum. This tunnel is known as the external auditory canal. This is where we find wax (which is normal) and may be traumatized with cotton buds (yes, stop using them in your ears).

Inner ear: The inner ear houses the important nervous structure of the ear. The wiring, if you like, that transmits a mechanical sound wave into an electrical one. I am continually amazed that we have the ability to change a mechanical energy into an impulse that our brain may translate for us. The intricate nature of this is not the scope of otitis media, but just to know it is important.

Middle Ear: So the ‘middle of the ear’ contains the vibratory component. A sound wave is channelled from the air via the pinna, to a special structure known as the external auditory canal (ear tunnel) to reach the tympanic membrane (ear drum). These make the ear drum ‘dance’ or wobble. The vibrations are then transmitted via 3 delicate ear bones to ensure the energy is not lost and converts the mechanical energy to and electrical impulse when it meets the inner ear.

So if the middle ear is full of fluid, or even worse infected fluid, then the eardrum and ear bones (ossicles) cannot function! I like to compare it to a real music drum (eg bongos) that you can tap (or bang). Imagine if you jumped into the ocean with the drum (bongos), and try to play them underwater, it wouldn’t work. That is, you cannot hear. We haven’t even started talking about the infections and complications.

So this beautifully designed apparatus and organ has the ability to help us communicate. Our rich culture has such a strong aural history and it is imperative for us to be able to pass on our culture. We need to be able to hear to pass on our stories, laughter and wisdom.

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

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” 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.