Audiologist supply and quality hearing services are vital for born-deaf infants to get to hear and talk, according to Susan Daniels, CEO of the UK’s National Deaf Childrens’ Society.
In a recent Huffington Post article, Daniels emphasises:
Audiologists, hearing specialists in hospitals and health centres, are a vital lifeline for the 45,000 deaf children in the UK [ and Ireland ]. They are gatekeepers to a child’s access to spoken language through their hearing, ensuring they get the support to which they are entitled. Being misdiagnosed, diagnosed too late, given ill-fitting hearing aids or outdated advice can all have serious repercussions [for child learning].
Ireland’s Hearing Context
Before 2011, Ireland lacked public audiology services, however recent years brought the nationwide roll-out of newborn hearing test services after the HSE National Audiology Review was published. Hearing-care pathways for detected infants improved, with families finally getting some necessary hearing services even if public auditory-verbal services are lacking.
As the NDCS’ Susan Daniels notes, 85% of childrens’ audiology services in the UK have gone uninspected since 2012, with long waiting lists in effect. In Ireland, with fairly new public audiology services – is quality being checked? Of particular concern is Ireland’s lack of a robust undergraduate audiology course after Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) dropped its four-year degree course after the 2016 student cohort graduated with certification wobbles.
While University College Cork (UCC) has some postgraduate courses in audiology/hearing sciences, AIT now offers a Higher Certificate in Science (Hearing Aid Audiology). If students miss out on learning about hearing sciences at undergraduate level, how is innovation in the hearing-area to benefit this country if they need to relocate for their primary degree studies? How many of these students will return to Ireland to study audiology at postgraduate level?
Hearing And Speech Are Enmeshed
Audiologists, as hearing-testers and device-fitters, are the first step in an infant’s learning to hear and talk process. Secondly, these Infants need consistent hearing-device wear, plus quality listening input within their family and infant education settings, to support directed spoken-language development by age six. Only then, is the actual potential of public infant hearing-services achieved – with the return on investment amplified many times.