Northwest Tribal Hearing Loss Prevention

Hearing loss has been estimated to be 2-4 times more prevalent among Native Americans. In tribal communities, hearing has special importance for the passing of knowledge through the oral tradition.

The OHSU Oregon Hearing Research Center and its Dangerous Decibels partners have developed and evaluated several innovative hearing loss prevention educational interventions. The utility and effectiveness of these programs has been demonstrated in several settings including minority populations. We recognize that Native American communities are culturally unique with traditions and values that may not be adequately accommodated by the present designs of the interventions. This project will evaluate the cultural appropriateness of an existing education program to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in youth. Panels of leaders, health care providers, teachers, parents and youth will evaluate 4 educational modes:

  1. Museum exhibit
  2. Virtual museum exhibit
  3. Classroom activities
  4. Automated hearing screener

This evaluation will inform the development of a future community intervention.

The purpose of this developmental project is to determine if the interventions can be adapted to the social, cultural and practical requirements of tribal communities.  The purpose is not to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions at changing knowledge, attitudes and health behaviors among tribal members.  The feasibility of applying these interventions in tribal communities will be determined by tribal consensus.  If the tribal consensus is favorable, the partners will submit an application for a 5-year R01 community-based project to adapt, disseminate and evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions in Northwest tribal communities.  The future project will also incorporate the automated screening system to perform a large-scale survey of hearing function to identify hearing impaired individuals and connect them with existing health care services to receive treatment. The Center will support activities to expand this hearing project from the tribes to urban Indian health care settings and populations.

Benefits of Hearing Health Interventions for Hearing Loss for Tribal Members

This project will also evaluate the practical benefits of hearing loss interventions to Native Americans identified during the Tribal Hearing Testing project. Audiometric results from the Tribal Hearing Testing projects will be reviewed by OHSU audiologists and individuals who would benefit from amplification will be identified. Amplification or other appropriate interventions will be provided by a program audiologist and followed for adjustments. Subjects will complete questionnaires regarding hearing related issues and impact on quality of life before the interventions and 6 months after. Questionnaires will reflect factors identified in the Role of Hearing in Contemporary Native American Culture project to address specific tribal issues and also evaluate the impact of intervention on practical aspects of daily life.