Chung providing hearing tests to hundreds

NIU Audiology Professor King Chung is making good use of her Fulbright Scholarship Award. She and a team in Brazil have  provided hearing tests for over 500 people in three different populations in two months.

She has moved on to Natal, where she is working with the professors at Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte where they plan to test another 300 people in the coming four weeks.

Additionally, Chung was the keynote speaker for the 26th Congress of Speech, Language, and Audiology at in Bauru, Brazil. She spoke on humanitarian research and services around the world.

Chung received the Fulbright Scholar Award to provide hearing services, community outreach and education as well as to conduct research in Brazil. She has spent two weeks providing hearing services in two Amazon villages in Rondônia. Then she’ll spend about 15 weeks teaching and conducting research at the University of São Paulo, Bauru; Federal University at Rio Grande do Norte at Natal and Federal University at Paraíba in João Pessoa.

Chung and her collaborators at the Brazilian universities are examining if the automatic hearing testing program she developed for iPads can be used to test children and adults’ hearing sensitivity in rural areas in Brazil. The adult program allows people to self-test and reports their estimated hearing sensitivity so that they can be better counseled if they have hearing problems. The results also give audiologists a ballpark impression of the appropriate steps for further intervention.

The children’s program is unique in that it lets kids play games on iPads – pointing to whichever animal is making a sound. This simplifies testing and allows children to be tested at a younger age with more accuracy.

Testing children through conventional methods is challenging. In existing audiometry, people being tested are instructed to raise their hands or press buttons whenever they hear test tones. However, testing children who are 3 or 4 years old requires audiologists to use “conditioned play audiometry,” in which children are conditioned to perform a task (such as putting a peg on a board) whenever they hear the test tones. In addition to conducting the test, audiologists also need to consistently monitor the children’s interest level during the test and keep them on tasks, Chung said.

Chung said preliminary results from children tested in the United States suggest that many 3-to-4-year-olds could be examined using the game-based automatic testing. This means the automatic test can allow for children’s hearing screenings at a younger age than a standard audiometry test and without trained audiologists. The long-term goal is to help equip community health workers with hearing screening tools and to facilitate early identification of hearing loss so that children and adults with hearing problems can be referred for professional interventions.

Working in Brazil provides Chung the opportunity to examine whether children’s hearing can be tested reliably without a well-trained audiologist. Audiologists are highly concentrated in cities, and Brazil does not yet mandate hearing screenings for elementary school students.

Photos from Chung’s trip so far: (click to enlarge)

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