More ENT Specialists will benefit local children with hearing loss

By Faaolo Utumapu-Utailesolo

APIA: SUNDAY 09 MARCH 2014:  Having enough local ENT specialists, or doctors specializing in the health of the ear, nose and throat available in Samoa will help towards maintaining healthy ears and preventing permanent hearing problems.

This was according to three top audiologists from Australia who are regular visitors and friends of SENESE, during last month’s audiology clinic to detect children suspected of having problems with their hearing, in partnership with SENESE and National Health Service.

Samoa might as well be the home away from home for clinical audiologist Cristy Newall from Sydney’s Concord Hospital, Professor of audiology Phillip Newall from the Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) and Janelle Cook, a Clinical Audiologist from RIDBC’s Jim Patrick Audiology Centre.

In partnership with RIDBC, The three professionals started coming to Samoa in 2008.

For three times a year since 2008 they have tested hundreds of children, identifying hearing problems, making referrals to the hospital for further treatment, fitting hearing aids and provide trainings to local staff on how to support current students and screen new referrals.

February’s visit saw the team testing 94 children, fitting seventeen hearing aids and repairing another eleven, not counting 15 impressions for new hearing aids to be imported from Australia for new referrals.

However, having access to an ENT specialist will go a long way towards ensuring that children with treatable ear infections receive the right treatment and avoid further complications.

“It would help a great deal having better health care for treating problems like ear infections, fluids behind the ear, some of the problems we’ve encountered during our screening” said Janelle Cook, a Clinical Audiologist who manages the RIDBC audiology centre.

In their second to last clinic, the audiologists worked alongside Dr Jinming Sheng, an ear, nose and throat specialist in a partnership with National Health Service, and in previous years Dr. Moe Ludeen who is now serving the big island of Savaii.

Sadly Dr Jinming Sheng has returned home.

Acknowledging that we have one of the best in Dr. Toga Potoi who runs a private practice, the fact he is dedicating some days to work in the hospital’s ENT clinic, shows there is a shortage of ENT and that perhaps the audiologists from Australia have a reason to worry.

Meanwhile the visits by the audiologists is a timely reminder of the importance of early detection of hearing problems – the earlier the better!

SENESE (in partnership with the RIDBC and the National Health Service) always offers free hearing screening, advice and referrals for children aged 0 to 18 years. With no cost involved there’s no reason to wait to check their hearing.

Why is hearing screening important?

If left untreated hearing issues can make it difficult for your child to communicate with the world around them, meaning their learning and development might be slower and they may not reach their full potential.

How to spot hearing problems

Have you ever noticed that a child in your family, village, community or church:

  • doesn’t look at you when you speak or clap your hands
  • is not talking as well as other children the same age (delayed speech)
  • does not sing or dance when you play music
  • watches your mouth when you speak (they may be lip reading)
  • is falling behind or doesn’t pay attention at school
  • turns the TV or radio up very loud
  • gets a lot of ear infections
  • has wax or fluid coming out of their ears (never use cotton buds – the inside of the ear is delicate and can be easily damaged)

They might have partial or total hearing loss.

Don’t wait, Act NOW!