Hearing Norton Sound approved for $1.9 million research funding award to reduce childhood hearing loss in rural Alaska communities

Project selected for funding by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

A joint research team from the Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC), and Johns Hopkins and Duke Universities has begun a three-year study aiming to improve the school hearing screening and referral process to reduce childhood hearing loss in rural Alaska. The research approved for a $1.9 million funding award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) will begin holding focus groups and community meetings this summer in the first phase of the project.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with NSHC to share the results.”

Hearing Norton Sound was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders, and their methodological rigor among other criteria.

“We have a fantastic team, ready to work directly with educators, parents, patients, health aides and community members in the Norton Sound region,” Lead Audiology Stakeholder and Co-Principal Investigator Samantha Kleindienst said. “Success of the project is in direct line with gaining experiential knowledge of the patients and those providing care. We look forward to partnerships with individuals throughout the region to reduce childhood hearing loss by improving the school screening and referral process.”

“This research would not be possible without the funding award from PCORI,” Kleindienst said. “We are grateful for their support to begin work that aims to improve the lives of individuals throughout rural Alaska.”

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit www.pcori.org. http://www.pcori.org/funding/opportunities

For more information on Hearing Norton Sound, including an overview and staff information, visit www.hearingnortonsound.com or contact Samantha Kleindienst at 907-434-0433 or skleindienst@nshcorp.org.

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Welcome!

Thank you for visiting. We are Norton Sound residents, excited to bring relevant, important and much-needed research to the region.

Samantha Kleindienst Robler is an audiologist for the Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC), serving residents from Stebbins to Shishmaref. Phil Hofstetter is also an audiologist serving NSHC as the Vice President of Hospital Services. In their combined 20+ years of working with children with hearing loss in the Norton Sound region, they have noticed challenges when managing children who refer school hearing screenings. When a child refers a school hearing screening, the next step is a full ear and hearing assessment, but it is often difficult to obtain testing right away. The family either has to bring their child to the local clinic and have the Community Health Aide send a report to the audiologist, or they have to wait until the audiologist travels to the community, which can sometimes be 1-3 months after the referral. If a child does have a hearing loss, she or he may struggle to hear and learn in the classroom until seen by the audiologist and/or an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Doctor to have their hearing loss treated. Even more, most of the hearing loss our children experience is from ear infections and can often be treated and improved immediately. It is important for our children with hearing loss to be seen and treated right away to ensure they have the best possible hearing for success in the classroom.

To help address these challenges, Phil and Samantha have teamed up with Susan Emmett, an ENT physician from Duke University, who also has a special interest in improving hearing healthcare. She and her fantastic team at Duke and John Hopkins Universities bring expertise and knowledge essential for building and carrying out a successful research project.  Our team also includes exceptional individuals from around the region and the state who have insight into the community and culture. See the “Staff” tab to read more about the team.

Hearing Norton Sound is a three-year study where we will work to improve how quickly students are seen for a full ear and hearing assessment after receiving a school hearing screen referral. We will be traveling to all of Norton Sound’s communities, working with the schools and clinics, and visiting with children, parents, and community members. We look forward to sharing more about this project and learning more from all of you!  Keep checking back here for more posts on the project, announcements of dates and locations for when and where we will be traveling, and current progress.  If you have any questions or comments click “Contact” and fill in your information.

Thank you, Quyanaq, Quyana, Igamsiqanaghhalek!