Our audiology program reunited with familiar faces and friends as we kicked off the Level 2 and 3 audiology training workshops this week.
The two levels comprise Vietnamese medical professionals, teachers who do audiology work in the schools, and members of a hearing aid dispenser that we have worked with closely over the past few years. In total, we have about 20 participants in the Level 2 and 3 programs combined. When you include our Level 1 participants, the total count reaches about 40 Vietnamese professionals, doubling the number from last summer’s inaugural audiology program.
Our audiology curriculum is a creative and intricate one that has been fun to watch unfold. There are lectures covering pediatric audiology concepts. We have breakout sessions designed to provide the participants opportunity to practice on audiology equipment. We have clinics in which families are scheduled to come in for hearing testing, and a supply of 40 hearing aids to fit on children who need them. The Vietnamese participants in Level 2 are leading the testing and fitting of hearing aids with coaching support from the Level 3 participants and our Global Foundation professionals. The training aspect makes the process slower than if our professionals did the work themselves, but we think it is a valuable opportunity to train the Vietnamese professionals to do this work so they can continue to support the children even when we are not here.
There are several new families that have signed up for our clinic appointments but we are also revisiting families we have previously counseled in other summer programs and during our Mobile Missions. We have been working with the same group of teachers and families across 38 schools since we launched our program. As a result, we have been able to track progress of not only the children, but also the children’s teachers and families.
Perhaps the most compelling element of our audiology training this year is the focus on collaboration between the various partners that are working to support the child with hearing loss. Our Level 1 audiology participants have spent a few hours this week observing the Classroom/Therapy program, the Early Intervention program, as well as the Level 2 audiology clinics. With guidance from our Global Foundation professionals, they are learning that the success of children with hearing loss extends beyond a well-fit pair of hearing aids. The hearing technology alone is not enough. These children also need the support of teachers, therapists, and their families to learn to make sense of the sounds they are hearing and foster their listening and spoken language development. During the discussions after the observations, the Vietnamese audiology participants reflected on that and talked about the need for audiologists to work with the teachers and families more closely to ensure the child’s success.
The other element that we have implemented this year to support the idea of collaboration are working sessions with our Level 3 participants. They are developing an action plan to foster collaboration between hospitals, schools, and clinics to support each other and the families they serve.
We set the stage for the planning process in our first meeting with Level 3, but the five leaders that we have identified to take part in this exercise quickly made this conversation their own. They worked together to identify the challenges and opportunity areas and developed a action plan with concrete steps that they will implement over the next few years. The goals of this plan are three fold: to improve communication between the various partners in the network of support, to increase awareness about options and resources available for children with hearing loss in Vietnam, and to provide the best care possible for the families. Those are big goals but I have no doubt that they will achieve them. I look forward to supporting them in their realization of their vision and plans.
It is exciting to see the Vietnamese heath and education representatives in our program starting to think about ways to enhance the own country’s system of support for children with hearing loss. The future looks bright here in Vietnam.