For the past three decades Australian Hearing has been dedicated to improving access to hearing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Now Australian Hearing has launched a trial of a teleOutreach service to further our support. This service provides a follow-up appointment with hearing impaired Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote locations via video-chat.
The service, called TeleFUP, is led by Australian Hearing’s dedicated team of outreach audiologists and delivers support to children in remote communities after they are fitted with their first hearing aid.
The six-month trial will focus on providing follow up support to children and some adults within two to three weeks of receiving their hearing aid. These children and their families currently wait on average three months for a face-to-face follow-up. A small teleOutreach team of Sydney and Melbourne-based audiologists will connect with remote community clients across the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
A strength of the TeleFUP program will be community Hearing Helpers. These are people who live and work in the community, who already play a role in the child’s life. Australian Hearing will also support the Helpers remotely so they can provide assistance to families.
“For over 30 years, the aim of Australian Hearing’s outreach program has been to improve access to hearing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through building strong community connections. The program has reached a new landmark with the launch of the TeleFUP trial,” says Samantha Harkus, Principal Audiologist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services, Australian Hearing.
“The first few weeks with a hearing aid are critical. It’s a time when extra support is needed. However, in remote communities there is usually less assistance available for families. Through TeleFUP, Australian Hearing can provide better support from a distance and help to strengthen community support. This will make it easier for children to make great use of their hearing aids so they can hear easily,” says Samantha.
TeleFUP is Australian Hearing’s second teleOutreach program, now joining TeleFIT which started in 2016. TeleFIT is a video-fitting clinic aimed at children under five years in remote communities. As an Australian Hearing initiative implemented in partnership with Queensland’s Aboriginal Hearing Health program Deadly Ears, TeleFIT has significantly reduced waiting time and tripled the number of children receiving hearing aids before they start school.