FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nome, Alaska – A study that involved school children from all over the Bering Strait region could have implications in how hearing screenings are conducted in rural areas, globally.
This week, a national journal published a study examining hearing screening tools and their accuracy in rural Alaska children’s screenings. Ear and Hearing, the official journal of the American Auditory Society, published the results of a study involving Norton Sound Health Corporation audiologists who collected data in 2017 and 2019.
The Hearing Norton Sound study compared different screening tools to determine which were best to use with populations of school children who experience high rates of ear infections and hearing loss which is not uncommon in rural, hard-to-reach areas. The researchers, led by Dr. Samantha Kleindienst Robler, found that combining a type of screening that measures middle ear health, called tympanometry, with other age-appropriate types of hearing screenings yields the most accurate screening results.
Hearing Norton Sound gathered data from children enrolled with Bering Strait School District in the 15 small communities of the region, outside of Nome. Researchers used tools called mobile health (mHealth) pure-tone screening, distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), and tympanometry to measure the students’ hearing.
After examining data, researchers found that tympanometry, which tests how well the middle ear works by measuring how the eardrum moves, is vital in the hearing screening protocol, especially when infection-related hearing loss is common. For students over 7 years old, the high-frequency mHealth pure-tone screen with tympanometry worked best. For students ages 3-6, DPOAE and tympanometry produced the best results.
Dr. Robler, study principal and NSHC audiologist, said the results could make major waves globally, as audiologists re-examine the most appropriate screening protocols in areas where infection-related hearing loss is prevalent.
“The impact of this paper is considerable. We were able to include many children, kindergarten to 12th grade, and look at all possible tools to determine the most accurate way to screen for infection-related hearing loss,” Dr. Robler said. “No work to-date has done this on such a scale and the implications for how it will inform screening guidelines and policy is significant, particularly for preventive hearing loss in children. It’s great to have NSHC at the center of such influential change.”
All children may benefit from earlier and more frequent hearing health services. Preventive hearing health services could include hearing screenings at well-child visits, school screenings, and check-ups with an audiologist.
Read the complete research study here.