Audiologists Connect, Collaborate Through Global Networking Site
Dr. Ross Roeser recently visited China to lecture on audiology topics and promote the Global Resource for Audiology Information Networking (GRAIN), a website designed to help improve audiological care around the world.
A UT Dallas professor is leading a collaborative attempt to connect audiologists around the world into one linked, global network. The goal is to make it easier for audiologists and all stakeholders interested in hearing and hearing disorders to learn from one another, to help each other, and to provide aid to people in their countries who are experiencing hearing loss.
Dr. Ross Roeser said audiology services throughout the world vary a great deal, including educational requirements and equipment availability. His initial thought was to travel throughout the world to document how audiology is done in various countries and then to try to define what audiology is. Then Roeser, along with Dr. Vinaya Manchaiah, director of audiology and associate professor of audiology at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, decided to do the same thing via the internet, creating the Global Resource for Audiology Information Networking (GRAIN).
“We're connecting people around the world so that we can, in some way, affect all aspects of audiological care and practice, with the end point of helping consumers to get help for their hearing loss,” said Roeser, the Howard B. and Lois C. Wolf Professor for Pediatric Hearing.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 5 percent of the world’s population — approximately 360 million people — have disabling hearing loss. In children under 15 years of age, 60 percent of hearing loss is attributable to preventable causes. WHO said people with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.
The Global Resource for Audiology Information Networking (GRAIN) website, globalaudiology.org, features an interactive map.
“Hearing loss is among the most prevalent health conditions in the world,” Roeser said. “The statistics are staggering. When you start looking at them you realize the magnitude of hearing impairment in virtually every society.”
Roeser said there are some regions that have only one audiologist for an entire country, such as Vietnam. With such a limited professional base in that country, Roeser said it is difficult to find information about how Vietnamese citizens are treated for hearing issues or who is providing hearing treatment there.
At the same time, those seeking help with their hearing problems in many countries often have no idea where to turn.
These types of issues prompted Roeser to collaborate with Manchaiah to create GRAIN.
“It's a way of networking. If a person needs information from a country or a region in a country that is very hard to access, the person would have a contact person who could facilitate whatever need might exist,” Roeser said.
A key part of GRAIN is its network of regional and subregional editors who are volunteer resource coordinators for those who have an interest in audiology in their region. He said the goal is to have at least a third of the world covered by the end of the year.
Roeser said hearing loss often is a hidden problem, because it can’t be easily seen and it doesn't hurt. Therefore, he said it is important for audiologists around the world to work together to help improve the situation.
“Once you impair a person's ability to hear, you impair their ability to communicate, and once they stop communicating you have isolation, you get depression, and if it's an older person it can really lead to some serious problems,” he said.
“This is simply an attempt to make it possible for audiologists and those interested in hearing and hearing disorders to network in a way where we can advance knowledge, with the ultimate goal of helping people,” Roeser said.
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