Like many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Bundjalung man Joshua Fares, and his fifteen-year-old-son William, both experienced middle ear infections throughout childhood, which has led to them developing hearing loss.
Hearing loss among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is widespread and much more common than for non-Indigenous Australians. The good news for William is that he is the recipient of a ‘hearing hat’, a first for the Clarence Valley region, but an innovation that families in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities would be familiar with.
“On a recent visit to Bulgarr Ngaru for his hearing, the Audiologists from Australian Hearing told us about a hearing aid that goes into a hat,” explained Joshua. “We only needed to pay for the hat William wanted which was $20. The hearing aid was supplied by Australian Hearing.”
The hearing hat has a bone conduction hearing aid tucked securely inside. Microphone tubing pokes through a hole on top of the hat to pick up speech sounds. It is a clever option for young people like William who might feel more comfortable in a hat than wearing a hearing device on its own.
“The hat makes it easier to wear hearing aids as I don’t feel like it stands out so much,” said William. “I got to pick the style and it’s just right for me!”
William, his parents and teachers all agree the hearing hat has brought improvements to his schooling including having the confidence to ask and answer questions, while feeling happier overall.
“School is much better now with the hearing hat,” William said. “I’m starting to understand more things in class; I’m catching up on work and finishing on time. The hat helps with background noise so even when the kids are screaming I can still hear the teacher.”
Both William and Joshua said other families should not be afraid of getting their ear health checked.
“As parents, you want to ensure your child gets the best education they can and they need to listen in order to learn,” Joshua said. “At the first sign of a sore ear or infection, go see your doctor for treatment. If you leave it, it’s just going to get worse and your child can end up with hearing loss. If specific hearing testing is needed, you will be referred to Bulgarr Ngaru and Australian Hearing.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can arrange a free hearing health check at Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Corporation in Grafton, by calling 02 6643 2199. Australian Hearing provides government-funded hearing services and hearing devices for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults. For more information call 131 797 or visit www.hearing.com.au