A childhood ear & hearing study

Siutik • Sigutenka • Ciutek 

Treatable hearing loss is common in the Alaska Native population. Childhood hearing loss, which is primarily due to chronic ear infections (otitis media) in Alaska, is of particular concern given the lifelong effects on development, educational achievement, economic outcomes, and quality of life. The state of Alaska requires school-based hearing screening, yet the current screening protocol can vary. Many children who referred the hearing screening never make it into the healthcare system for diagnosis and treatment.

GOAL: Our primary study goal is to reduce childhood hearing loss in the Alaska Native population by improving the school hearing screening and referral process. Improving these processes will speed up identification, diagnosis, and treatment of childhood hearing loss in rural Alaska communities.

PLAN: We will accomplish this by comparing the current school screening protocol and primary care referral process with a new mHealth (mobile health) screening protocol and telemedicine referral in 15 villages in the Norton Sound region. Most importantly, we will involve stakeholders (patients, providers, and the community) for their insight and feedback into all aspects of this project. We will ask about their experiences with the two school screening and referral processes and hold community events and focus groups to better understand what hearing loss looks like in rural Alaska communities.