The Results of Audiology Outreach to the Northern Communities – Part III

Robert Traynor
October 2, 2012

This week’s post is the last in a series about bringing audiology to the Northern Communities in Canada.  This program has had a real impact on those who receive its services. Hearing International congratulates Jack and his staff, and Western University, London, Ontario for a job well done bringing audiology to a community in need!

Part III:  The Results of Audiology Outreach in a Northern Community

by Jack Scott, Ph.D.


Flying in to Attawapiskat, one truly appreciates the remoteness of the community.  The small twin-propeller plane sets down on a dirt runway, and gently pulls up to the airport: a building no bigger than a one-story single family home.  The luggage is unloaded onto a cart and pulled to the side of the building where people go through and pick the one that belongs to them.

Things move slower in the north – the people move slower and the cars move slower.  No one is in a hurry, because you can crisscross the entire community in less than three minutes by car and 15 minutes on foot.  Driving through the community at a snail’s pace allows a passenger to see the details of the houses, buildings, and the roads.  With scarce construction resources, the houses are kept up via patchwork: particle board is used to replace broken windows; tarps are used instead of roofs.  To say there is a housing crisis in Attawapiskat would be an understatement.  Luckily, this news was finally broken in the winter of 2011, but that is for another story.

The elementary school in Attawapiskat opened in 1976.  Unfortunately, due to contamination and health concerns resulting from a diesel leak in 1979, the school had to close in 2000.  In 2009, the building was demolished and the lot still sits empty.  In 2000, to replace the closed school portable buildings were constructed near the site as “temporary” classrooms.  The community is still waiting for the new building to be completed.

The audiology initiative was set up in a temporary classroom building that was being converted to house the new school library.  Two small classrooms side-by-side were selected to contain the testing equipment.  The first room was designated for otoscopy and immittance testing.  The other room was selected for hearing screening.  Initially, the thought was to have the supervisor and student working in the two rooms separately.  However, after the first few students, it was found that working together would speed up the process.  Casey Enright, the elementary school’s Special Education Coordinator, brought the children five at a time to the library that became the waiting room.  One by one the students were evaluated and returned to the library.  This process allowed for children to share their experiences during testing in order to alleviate any fears the other children may have had about the procedures.

In total, 56 children had their hearing screened during the initiative.

A large portion of the children were from the senior kindergarten class; however, 22 came from other grades.  These children were referred by their parents/guardians, teachers, or the speech pathology supervisors.  In addition to the children, five teachers were evaluated and five referrals from the hospital.

Based on the results, the child were divided into five categories:

  1. normal hearing sensitivity, no follow-up required (26 children)
  2. refer for cerumen removal at the local hospital (8 children)
  3. refer for rescreening of hearing and middle ear function in 2-3 weeks (8 children)
  4. refer for cerumen removal plus rescreen of hearing and middle ear function in 2-3 weeks (8 children)
  5. complete hearing evaluation by the audiologist at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston, Ontario (6 children)

During the entire initiative, the supervisor and student were in clinic for the planned three and a half days.  During the initiative, evenings were set aside for administrative purposes (i.e., completing paperwork, writing reports, organizing the schedule for the next day).  All the adults and those children needing a referral to the Hotel Dieu Hospital received complete audiological reports.  The initial initiative was very informative and enabled the audiology faculty to develop and plan more efficiently and effectively for the next year’s trip.

Providing audiological services in northern communities is not only a rewarding experience for the clinician and the community, but also a great teaching opportunity for any new audiologist.  It forces them out of their traditional comfort zone of the clinic and teaches them to think on their feet and problem-solve accordingly.  In addition, the opportunity also allows the seasoned professional to experience audiological practice in a variety of settings and situations. Take the initiative and create an outreach program of your own.

—  This article has been adapted from a previous article in the Canadian Hearing Report, Vol. 7, Issue 1.

This week’s article for Hearing International is the third and final in a series of postings written by Guest Author Dr. Jack Scott, who is an Assistant Professor/Clinical Supervisor in Audiology at Western University in London, Ontario.  Jack received his B.S. and M.A. from The University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Dallas.  His areas of interest include hearing aid acclimatization, vestibular assessment, and adult and geriatric hearing assessment and hearing loss remediation.  He is a member of ASHA, AAA, and a past president of the Scott Haug Audiology Foundation.

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