by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition
With the World Health Organization announcing that “over one billion young adults are at risk of permanent hearing loss due to unsafe hearing practices,” it is essential that young people be educated on how to prevent hearing loss. To that end, a pilot educational project called Hearing Education and Research (HEAR) was developed by several audiology students under the mentorship of Dr. Shruti Balvalli Deshpande of St. John’s University. The project consists of interactive videos which can be readily accessed online. In addition to topics focused on the effects of noise exposure on hearing, the project added topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic which included “infection control in the hearing context and non-noisy recreational resources.”
To determine the effectiveness of her program, Dr. Deshpande assessed how a group of students between the ages of 10 and 12 viewed their behavior with respect to hearing health before the presentation of the program. She then worked with teachers to introduce the HEAR program to a comparable group of students and then after the HEAR program was introduced to them, she took a post program survey of their views regarding hearing health. That is how she learned that HEAR could indeed improve the attitudes of young people with regard to hearing care.
It is important to point out that the students were motived by their teachers to participate in the program. Additionally, Dr. Deshpande solicited input from the school-based educators on how to “implement and sustain hearing conservation programs like HEAR.”
Dr. Deshpande calls on audiologists to work with communities, schools and libraries to encourage the use of hearing health-related programs online to promote hearing health. She also believes that audiologists have a key role to play in “minimizing hearing-related misinformation.”