The Hear our Heart Ear Bus Project (HoHEBP) was created in 2012 by local women Rowena Galway, Rachel Mills and Donna Rees as a direct result of need evidenced in the community where gaps in hearing testing service provision and support for a comprehensive ear health/education program existed.
Our project is not government funded and to date we have raised as a combined total of all communities involved $230,000.
The project is run by a group of volunteers with Donna and Rachel sharing a partnership role with the Department of Education and Communities to deliver healthy ears lessons. We also have a paid part time Project Manager, Kerry Inder.
The project is for all public and private childcare centres, primary and secondary schools at Dubbo, Wellington, Dunedoo, Gilgandra, Narromine, Trangie, Warren and Nyngan.
As we are self-funded, towns and their schools need to have a committee and fundraise to be involve. When operating full-time we will see 62 schools.
Donna Rees is the Assistant Principal Hearing Support (qualified teacher of the deaf) with the Department of Education and Communities.
Donna is also the founding president of Dubbo & District Parent Support Group for the Deaf & Hearing Impaired Inc. (Dubbo Deaf Club) established in 1997.
Rachel Mills is also a teacher (generalist classroom) who is working with the Department of Education and Communities as a support teacher for deaf and hard of hearing children. Rachel is also a member of the Dubbo Deaf Club.
Effectively we are a mobile children's ear health clinic and travel to the schools.
The HOHEBP's comprehensive strategy fulfils the need across all areas of awareness, prevention, detection, referral, and support.
There is a strong emphasis on education throughout all of these aspects and treatment pathways. Children from child care/preschool to primary school enjoy the puppet show with Lucy and Sam educating by example. High School students along with teachers and available parents are provided with more in depth education.
This has actually seen one student self-referring.
We have partnered with non government organisations and the Department of Education for some of the testing.
Since April 2014 more than 600 targeted children (child care to year 12) have been tested, with more than 400 recommended for follow up services which we have provided as well.
In addition, we have accompanied more than 50 children referred to our local ENT Specialists working with the Ear Bus Project, with the majority being seen within two weeks.
This is in contrast with the normal waiting period for our region of more than five months.
Some have had ear surgery and hearing aids fitted well within the normal long waiting times.
Early identification of needs allows referrals to speech and education support.
Further funding has been successful to enable future employment of audiology staff which will see further education, testing and follow-up occurring throughout 2015. We are now looking at purchasing our Toyota Coaster Bus.
HoHEBP would like to thank the Daily Liberal for their ongoing support and allowing us to provide monthly updates.
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