There is a high risk of chronic and permanent hearing loss among Samoans, especially children.
This is according to audiologist Haylene Goh from Melbourne, Australia following a three-month free hearing screening exercise that she did focusing on Samoan children and adults.
She is a volunteer with the Australian Volunteer International Program and works with the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. She is based at the Senese Inclusive Education Office and provides free professional hearing checks and treatment for children up to 18 years of age.
“There are higher rates in Samoa caused by the amount of smoke exposure, which increases the risk of hearing problems such as the tropical climate, swimming and the hygiene.
“There is a lot of ear wax and also disease which causes discharge into the ear canal. Unfortunately, a lot of it is late on treatment so what is not really long-term problem, is turning into a permanent hearing problem.
“I think the best thing would be early treatment and immediate treatment because a lot of people just think it is normal to have this discharge from the ears, which isn’t and needs to be treated otherwise they end up with permanent hearing issues into adulthood,” Haylene said.
Senese director, Marie Bentin To'alepaiali'i, said they are happy Haylene has voluntarily offered her expertise to assist the programme.
“Because we don’t have the capacity to do what she does, hopefully in the future there will be students to become audiologists, there is a great need because there are so many children with hearing issues, which we aim to minimise.”
Haylene has spent about three months in Samoa and plans to extend her stay up to a year.
“I hope in near future the hospital, the National Health Service or Ministry of Health will be able to take up the responsibility of the hearing too because it’s a health issue and that is where it should be at the Ministry of Health.
But in the mean time we just can’t stop giving that support service to the people especially to the children,” she added.
The Senese Inclusive Education Office is planning a free annual ear screening initiative targeting Year 1 students, when the semester starts, to make sure every child gets tested.
“We decided to target those children as soon as they enter school to do hearing tests so that teachers are informed. It’s about intervention, once we identify children at that age that have hearing issues, we will be able to treat it before it causes more damage.
“We are concentrating on the children because we believe that sometimes the low achievements in school are maybe caused by unknown hearing or vision problems,” added To'alepaiali'i.
As part of her work in Samoa, Haylen is training four permanent workers to undertake hearing tests at Senese.