An app initially developed to cut down doctors visit for one little boy could play a role in fighting one of Australia’s largest emerging public health issues.
The hearing test app was developed by ECU PhD student Luke Brook for his five year old son Cooper, who suffers from hearing loss.
Cooper was diagnosed with hearing loss at around 12 months of age and Mr Brook decided to develop an app for use on tablets and smartphones to assist in diagnosing and monitoring hearing loss in children through an easy to use and engaging interface.
“The main benefits of the app are in the initial screening of children living in Indigenous communities where undiagnosed hearing loss is a serious problem,” he said.
“However it’s also useful for monitoring children with a diagnosed hearing loss to keep tabs on ear infections which can be common in children wearing hearing aids.”
The app uses the popular children’s story The Very Hungry Caterpillar in a friendly, easy to use interface to provide hearing screening for children suffering from hearing loss in a test which takes less than 10 minutes.
On completion results are sent to health professionals where formal diagnosis can be made and treatment organised.
“My hope is that the app will decrease the number of children with an undiagnosed hearing disorder, when I started it was to help my family and others in my position,” Mr Brook said.
“In the long term I hope it’ll be able to help a lot more families, and a lot more children.”
Telethon Speech & Hearing chief executive Peta Monley said the app has a great benefit for early diagnosis and ongoing treatment of children with hearing loss.
“It is a significant problem especially for children under five; it’s more of a problem for Indigenous children who tend to have middle ear problems more frequently. Sometimes they’re quite severe problems and they can end up with permanent hearing loss because of it.
Early intervention for middle ear disease is critical through testing and diagnosis as the disease can lead to permanent hearing loss and a host of other developmental problems.
It was developed with the assistance of the Telethon Speech & Hearing which provided facilities for testing and verification of the app as well as families attending the centre being involved in the research process.
The app is a finalist in the WAiTTA awards for tertiary student ICT projects. ECU student teams have already won the award in this category for two years running.
Two other ECU projects have been named as finalists in this year’s WAiTTA awards; an app aimed at assisting young people with disabilities and Firewatch, a partnership with Landgate.