Already successful iHEAR program expands to bring accurate hearing testing to more children in hopes of early intervention
Clearwater Clinical Limited, makers of SHOEBOX Audiometry, a clinically validated iPad audiometer, along with the University of Ottawa Medical School, is expanding the highly successful iHEAR program to bring much needed hearing testing to elementary school students. In its first phase, the program ran locally across the Ottawa region. They announce that iHEAR is expanding to include Montreal, Halifax, and Saskatoon.
Despite recommendations that school-aged children have their hearing evaluated annually, rarely does this testing occur due in part to a growing shortage of audiology resources. Left undetected, hearing loss can lead to extensive health issues related to speech, social, and cognitive development in children. To address this issue locally, Dr. Matthew Bromwich, ENT physician and associate professor of Otolaryngology and Audiology at the University of Ottawa, sponsored a student run outreach program called iHEAR. By capitalizing on the automated capabilities of SHOEBOX Audiometry, these medical students have been able to offer highly sensitive and specific hearing testing to a large and growing population of Canadian youth.
“Since initially forming in 2014, iHEAR has tested over 400 children and identified more than 30 with signs of hearing loss. Several of those were serious conditions that would have otherwise gone undetected,” said Dr. Bromwich, co-founder of Clearwater Clinical and inventor of SHOEBOX Audiometry. “The reality is, too few people have regular hearing tests, especially children. SHOEBOX and iHEAR are helping to change that. Now we bring the tests to the people.”
Beginning this year, phase two of the program is expected to reach more than double the number of children. According to Adam Rocker, medical student and Ottawa lead of the iHEAR program at the University of Ottawa, “Expanding iHEAR through partnerships with the medical schools at McGill University, Dalhousie University, and the University of Saskatoon is a great first step to encourage the adoption of a national screening program, at the very least, but we have more work to do. All Canadian children deserve the best chance to succeed. Our goal is to take the iHEAR program national, perhaps even international.”
In addition to the benefits iHEAR and SHOEBOX Audiometry bring to Canada’s children, the first and second year medical students involved in the program are gaining invaluable, hands-on experience in standard hearing testing and recognizing common hearing loss symptoms. Rocker explained, “The beauty of this project is that even for those of us that have no experience in treating hearing-related conditions, the program provides practical knowledge that is otherwise unavailable.”