Sound Scouts in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have long wait times when it comes to getting a hearing assessment.

This means children can go untreated for much longer than they should, impacting their speech and language development. When you can’t refer your patients to an audiologist right away, there’s an alternative solution for getting their hearing checked.

What is Sound Scouts?

Sound Scouts is a tablet-based hearing test game suitable for children five years and older. The game is an interactive detective-based story and takes around 15 minutes to complete. Children will need to be able to recognize red, black, yellow, blue and green for the test to be effective.
 
The game costs $14.99 but multiple downloads reduce the cost. It’s available for download on iTunes or Google Play so your patient or their parents will need one of these accounts to access Sound Scouts. It’s recommended that children are supervised while playing to ensure they don’t just tap buttons at random and skew the results.
 
Sound Scouts was developed and tested by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), the research arm of Australian Hearing.  It looks and feels like a game but incorporates advanced scientific principles to detect a range of hearing problems.

Can health services use Sound Scouts?

Sounds Scouts can be used to measure a child’s hearing when traditional diagnostic testing is less accessible. For example, if a child has had an ear infection for more than three months and a hearing test is needed, Sound Scouts can act as that test without needing to wait and cause further damage to the child’s ear. From the results of the app, further steps can be taken to treat the child. It sends a report directly to your patient’s e-mail, while you can view results via the Sound Scouts Clinical Portal.

What do the results indicate?

Sound Scouts tells you whether the user’s hearing is within normal range or not. It indicates whether any hearing loss is due to the inner ear, middle ear, or an auditory processing or language disorder (though the game can’t differentiate between the last two).
 
The results display as a curve, showing where the child’s hearing sits in relation to the normal range for their age. It will also display a score. The lower the score, the more intense the hearing loss.

Does Sound scouts recommend referrals?

Yes, depending on the most likely cause of hearing loss:

  • For inner-ear related cases a referral to Australian Hearing will be recommended.
  • For middle-ear related cases going to a health centre for further advice will be recommended.
  • For middle-ear related cases (for scores lower than 44*) a referral to Australian Hearing and an ENT specialist will be recommended.
  • For auditory processing or language problems a referral to a speech pathologist or Australian Hearing will be recommended (fees are included for these services).

*A Sound Scouts score lower than 44 is equivalent to the ear health guidelines’ recommendation to refer to an ENT specialist, as it means the average hearing level is worse than 35dBHL in the better ear. At this level action must be taken to avoid significant impact to the child’s learning and development. Please ensure that both referrals to a specialist and Australian Hearing are done at the same time to reduce any delays. If surgery is advised but there is a long wait, amplification will help in the meantime.

Sound Scouts for children whose first language isn’t English

While it’s possible for all children to use the app, the instructions are in spoken English. It’s recommended that they be at least six years of age to use the app and supervised by someone whose first language is English.

Sound Scouts for school

The app is appropriate for use at school but it’s important that the results are shared between health professional and teachers. This enables you to manage the child’s hearing loss and refer them to a specialist if needed, and for teachers to support the child’s learning effectively.
 
Australian Hearing is a leading provider of services and support for hearing loss in children and the indigenous community. We have hearing centres across Australia and through our Outreach program, we visit 220 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities annually. For more information please get in touch.