Satisfying the Needs and Closing the Resource Gap of Children with Minimal Hearing Loss
The main function of nonprofit organizations is to fill the gap between government policy and social demand. The Children’s Hearing Foundation (CHF) was established to perform this function and address the lack of public resources for children with hearing loss. During the past 23 years, we have been meeting the needs of children with hearing loss learning to hear and speak. In addition, since newborn hearing screening is becoming prevalent in Taiwan, we have been contemplating on streching our service, and provide resources for parents whose children have minimal hearing loss.
Taking care of children with minimal hearing loss not covered by public welfare
Currently, Taiwan’s standard for applying proof of hearing disability is inconsistent with the international standard (Table 1). Children with unilateral hearing loss or with mild to moderate hearing loss identified by the international standard, referred to as “minimal hearing loss,” are not qualified for resources provided to the disabled by the Taiwanese government. However, these children face the issues of being unable to hear and speak clearly. Excluded from the welfare net, parents may be less motivated to handle their children’s hearing loss. Moreover, medical institutions in Taiwan have different evaluation and treatment methods for minimal hearing loss, which tends to make parents anxious and confused.
Minimal hearing loss can cause negative effects, particularly for children at the learning stage. In our experience of helping children with minimal hearing loss, we found that most of them can develop auditory-verbal communication capabilities, but their listening and speaking still tend to be unclear, and they tend to get fatigue more easily when listening to sounds. This may make some people consider that these children are not understanding or concentrating, or people may not understand what these children are expressing. All of these situations can affect the interpersonal communication, school study, and mental health of children with minimal hearing loss.
Comprehensive services to provide a friendly environment for children with minimal hearing loss
In recent years, more than 100 families with children with minimal hearing loss reach out to us every year. We have also found that the public tend to have difficulties communicating with people with minimal hearing loss because of misunderstanding. Therefore, we see the needs of children with minimal hearing loss and their families to develop our Minimal Hearing Loss Family Service and Promotion Project. At the end of 2017, this project was recognized by the Spreading Good Award, which provided necessary funding support, and was officially launched in early 2018.
The long-term goals are to coraise awareness of families with children with minimal hearing loss and share professional audiology knowledge of infants and children with medical departments such as obstetrics and genecology, pediatrics, and otolaryngology. We also aim to raise public awareness and help develop empathy for minimal hearing loss. According to these three goals, CHF initiates the following plans demonstrated in Illustration 1 below.
Illustration 1. CHF Minimal Hearing Loss Family Service and Promotion Project
Based on the aforementioned plan, CHF starts professional minimal hearing loss services in 2018 and is estimated to serve 150 families per year. We will help parents understand their children’s hearing ability, developmental status, as well as relevant welfare resources. We will also help them decide the appropriate direction for the next steps. When the need for hearing aids and auditory-verbal sessions are certain, we encourage parents to let their children wear hearing aids and arrange short-term auditory-verbal sessions for them.
For medical professionals, we will organize four seminars on minimal hearing loss in different regions of Taiwan and invite 400 professionals to attend. We aim to help them acquire more knowledge on minimal hearing loss and become willing to promote the concept that people with minimal hearing loss need health care and medical assistance. We encourage medical professionals to discuss with us and refer their patients to CHF to develop a cross-institution service system for children with minimal hearing loss.
To help build a friendly communication environment in which the public understands what minimal hearing loss is and empathizes with those affected, CHF will launch a promotion website in the summer of 2018. The website will integrate interactive games with information to make people understand the needs of people with minimal hearing loss more easily. In addition, we will hold an Experiencing Minimal Hearing Loss Camp for school children to help cultivate hearing-loss friendly value from a young age.
We hope that with the efforts of CHF and relevant medical institutions, we can satisfy the needs of families with children with minimal hearing loss in information, medical care, hearing aids, and education. We aim to help these children who don't have enough resources to be able to hear and speak clearly so that they can learn and develop without any difficulties.