The World Hearing Organization reported that over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices (WHO,2021).1 Factors contributing to this risk include the increased use of personal listening devices and exposure to noise-related activities such as playing computer games and attending concerts and sports events.
How could young people be better educated about preventing noise-induced hearing loss?
A recent study published in the American Journal of Audiology2 examined the use of an online learning program to educate adolescents on hearing loss prevention and found that it resulted in “significant improvement in knowledge and attitudes regarding hearing loss.”
ONLINE, ASYNCHRONOUS FORMAT
At the heart of the study was a pilot educational project called Hearing Education and Research (HEAR), created by doctor of audiology (AuD) students of the Long Island AuD Consortium (Adelphi, Hofstra, and St. John's Universities). HEAR was created under the mentorship of Shruti Balvalli Deshpande, PhD, assistant professor at St. John's University. HEAR consists of a narrated PowerPoint presentation and interactive videos, all accessible to learners online for asynchronous, self-paced learning.
The narrated presentation includes topics such as hearing mechanism, hearing loss and its effects, effects of noise exposure, the role of audiologists, hearing conservation, and self advocacy. The creators also added topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as infection control in the hearing context and non-noisy recreational resources.
To determine the impact of this program, study author Deshpande conducted a baseline survey among 100 ethnically diverse learners age 10 to 12 years old, assessing their behavior toward hearing health prior to the presentation. She then collaborated online with schoolteachers to implement the program and took a post-program survey.
Deshpande shared with The Hearing Journal why the HEAR program was online and asynchronous by design.
“Through previous work, I have discovered that face-to-face hearing conservation programs are effective and enjoyable for adolescents. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to convert the hearing conservation program to an online format,” she said.
“The asynchronous format was crucial because of equity issues,” Deshpande continued. “For example, there were children from large families who only had access to one computer at home, so the asynchronous format helped them access the information whenever the computer was available to them. Inclusion was an important consideration for us.”
Teachers also assigned a participation grade for the activity. “The feedback that I got was that this was effective to motivate the students to participate in the HEAR project,” said Deshpande.
SUSTAINING HEARING CARE AWARENESS
School-based educators were also consulted on ways to implement and sustain hearing conservation programs like HEAR. Some of their suggestions include:
- Taking advantage of both face-to-face and online programs
- Planning and working with school administrators to incorporate hearing health in the curricula
- Helping teachers educate themselves via free, accessible, interactive online programs
- Making the students’ program amenable to grading
- Incentivizing educators via continuing education credits
- Tapping social media to promote hearing health care changes among adolescents.
Deshpande also stressed the vital role of audiologists in advocating for increased awareness of hearing care.
“The pandemic has brought health care inequities to the forefront, even for people in the urban areas. Using creative methods to involve and include diverse populations in hearing health advocacy efforts will hopefully help minimize gaps in the delivery of information and services in audiology.”
One particular strategy she suggests is working with existing community groups.
“At St. John's University, I have worked to build sustainable relationships with community organizations like schools and libraries where I can interact with community members. I think connections with public libraries [are] a great way to promote causes important to audiologists. Several public libraries have effectively used online platforms, thereby making connections with the community accessible.”
“Consistent efforts to build relationships (even through online platforms) with community partners (e.g., schools, libraries, places of worship, etc.) can make this effort successful.”
“Additionally, based on my research group's work on social media and hearing health care,3-5 I think audiologists also can help communicate vital hearing health-related information via social media. We have a key role to play when it comes to minimizing hearing-related misinformation.”
2. Online, Asynchronous Hearing Education and Research Project for Ethnically Diverse Adolescents via Interprofessional Collaboration and Electronic Service-Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Pilot Study on the Needs and Challenges.”
3. Deshpande, A. K., Deshpande, S. B., & O'Brien, C. (2018). A study of social media utilization by individuals with tinnitus. American Journal of Audiology
, 27(4), 559-569.
4. Deshpande, A. K., Deshpande, S. B., & O'Brien, C. A. (2019). Hyperacusis and social media trends. Hearing, Balance and Communication
, 17(1), 1-11.
5. Deshpande, S. B., Deshpande, A. K., O'Brien, C. A., & McMonagle, K. L. (2019). A study of the portrayal of information related to (central) auditory processing disorder on social media. Hearing, Balance and Communication
, 17(2), 134-144.