Many children growing up in rural Alaska get frequent ear infections which can result in hearing loss, speech and language delays, plus the children may also have trouble in school. A state law in Alaska requires children to be screened for hearing loss at school but the current screenings might not detect all hearing loss and many students do get the needed follow-up care.
Alaska has already developed strategies to address hearing loss. A network of village health clinics staffed by community health aides providing local care, have promoted the adoption of telemedicine in over 250 village clinics statewide.
Despite being widely available, telemedicine has not yet been used in school hearing screenings to speed up the referral process. Norton Sound Health Corporation partnering with Duke and Johns Hopkins Universities are studying whether a new school screening and referral process incorporating mhealth to screen and provide telemedicine referrals will help reduce childhood hearing loss disparities in the region.
A randomized controlled trial in progress “Reducing Childhood Hearing Loss in an Alaska Native Population through a New School Screening and Referral Process that Utilizes Mobile Health and Telemedicine” (NCT03309553) has a project budget for $1,975,423, and is estimated to be completed by 2020.
The trial’s research team is working with schools in 15 communities in northwest Alaska, with about 1,800 children eligible to take part. In all 15 communities, school staff is screening children ages 4-21 for hearing loss. The audiology staff performs full hearing testing similar to what children receive in an audiology clinic.
Specifically, the study research team wants to know:
- How long does it take for children with hearing loss to get a diagnosis?
- Will treatment for hearing loss lead to any changes in the child’s future as relates to their quality of life and school performance?
- Does the current school hearing screening and the new mhealth screening do an adequate job at detecting hearing loss?
For more information, email the Principal Investigator for the study Samantha Kleindienst, AuD, PhD at firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03309553 for the information on the clinical trial.