For the last thirty years, Australian Hearing’s Outreach Program has been working to improve access to hearing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the building of strong community connections.
In more than 230 communities in urban, rural and remote areas across the country, and with over 100 audiologists participating annually, the program has gone from strength to strength, providing hearing aid and support services to a steadily increasing number of clients each year.
The program provides tailored access to suit each community allowing solid networks to be established with local healthcare services, schools and aged care facilities.
Samantha Harkus, Australian Hearing’s Principal Audiologist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, says strong relationships with health services and schools are critical in order to identify and reach the adults and children who need support with their hearing.
“We also co-deliver services with ear, nose and throat specialists. If there’s another organisation we can team up with, and that works well for the community, that’s often a good thing because community members receive a seamless service,” said Samantha Harkus.
Outreach audiologists visit communities for anything from half a day to several days between four and 25 times a year depending on the community’s needs. Working out of health services, school or aged care residences, they provide a range of services aimed at helping people with complex hearing needs to hear better.
They also provide education and professional development around the needs of people with a hearing loss, including the recently-developed Hear for School project. For children in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, a common hearing problem is ear infection. Affecting around one in three children, ear infections can cause language delays and make classroom learning more difficult. Hear for School sees audiologists work with schools to educate teachers on how to support their students’ hearing and communication needs.