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Focus on Pacific community hearing loss

Focus on Pacific community hearing loss
Media Release - University of Auckland - 07 March 2016

Hearing loss and access to hearing health services among older people in New Zealand’s Pacific community will be investigated this year.

A three-year study by Dr Ravi Reddy from the University of Auckland (and funded by the Health Research Council) will examine how to improve the uptake of hearing health services in older Pasifika people.

Dr Reddy from the University’s Department of Audiology hopes to gain an understanding of older Pacific people’s perceptions and attitudes towards hearing loss and the influences that determine their decisions around getting help for it.

“The intention is to provide evidence-based findings to help decisions about hearing health,” he says. “We want to identify approaches that will improve or enhance the uptake and effectiveness of hearing health services for older Pacific people.”

It will be the first research of this type conducted in New Zealand specifically looking at older Pasifika people in respect to hearing loss and hearing health services.

“This gives me the opportunity to lead an initiative to explore and improve Pacific hearing health and to develop my expertise in hearing health promotion,” says Dr Reddy.

Dr Reddy is from Fiji where he developed a passion for community health when he worked there as an Environmental Health Officer.

Further experience as a research assistant for a project on traffic related injury in the Pacific, raised his awareness of the extent and impact of injuries and disabilities on people in Fiji and the Pacific.

“My interest in health research led me to do a PhD at the University of Auckland that focussed on hearing-related behaviour amongst workers in noisy industries,” he says. “This study had a large subset of Pasifika workers (30 percent) in the sample and this made me realise the potential degree of hearing loss in this group."

“It got me thinking about the barriers and supports influencing behaviour related to hearing loss and hearing health services in the Pacific communities,” says Dr Reddy. “Hearing loss is a common debilitating condition, but there is limited information that can be used to inform strategies and policies to ensure better hearing health outcomes for Pacific people."

“This stimulated my concern about hearing loss in older Pacific people and their uptake of hearing diagnostic, treatment, and disability services,” he says.

The research project will get underway at the University of Auckland this month and one of the biggest challenges will be recruiting 40 participants who meet the criteria.

To understand the barriers and supports influencing the uptake of hearing health services by Pacific adults with hearing loss, researchers will look at aspects such as; the beliefs, attitudes, knowledge base, and perception towards hearing loss amongst older Pacific people; and factors that impact older Pacific people’s access to hearing health services, including perceived need, personal attitudes, stigma, family influence, socio-economic status, cultural appropriateness and community norms.

Researchers will also investigate the suitability and appropriateness of current hearing health service models to Pacific people; to determine the cultural appropriateness of hearing health care services for Pacific adults; and to understand factors influencing non-attendance at appointments, which occur amongst Pacific adults when they approach hearing health services.

ENDS

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