York prof makes advances in hearing project for northern youth

Deaf education image
Deaf education image

A $300,000 prize awarded earlier this year to a team of audiologists, educators and community members from Ontario and Nunavut, including York U Faculty of Education Professor Pam Millett, has made some impressive advances.

Professor Pam Millett teaching kids about hearing loss in Ulaajuk School in Pond Inlet in May of this year
Professor Pam Millett teaching kids about hearing loss in Ulaajuk School in Pond Inlet in May of this year

The prize, which is a share of the $1.5-million Arctic Inspiration Prize, was awarded for the work Millett and her colleagues did on their Better Hearing in Education for Northern Youth (BHENY) project that demonstrates their knowledge to action plans that advance the health, wellness and quality of life of Canada’s Northern peoples and communities.

The project addresses the issue of hearing loss in 13 communities in Nunavut’s Qikiqtani region through the provision of technology, education and professional development for teachers and parents, and the enhancement of inter-agency and community partnerships.

At least 40 per cent of children in Nunavut have hearing loss, many due to complications from ear infections that are rarely seen in the south. Access to timely healthcare, as well as geography, make it difficult for families to seek out consistent treatment to prevent these complications.

Since being named as one of the winners of the Artic Inspiration Prize in January of 2016, members of the Bheny project have been hard at work.

To date, Bheny has:

  • installed 68 sound field systems in four schools – in the communities of Pond Inlet, Pangnirtung, Igloolik and Iqaluit;
  • trained 80 teachers/school support teachers, 25 student support assistants and five student support teachers in the use and maintenance of the systems;
  • presented Hearing Fairs for approximately 1,100 children and their parents, to learn about hearing and hearing care;
  • engaged in a variety of knowledge mobilization activities and new project initiatives related to professional development for student support teachers and student support assistants, and hearing screening; and
  • received a further $150,000 in funding from the Hear the World Foundation for the purchase of sound field systems in more communities in Nunavut.

The project will also see six more schools that will have every classroom outfitted with sound field systems by June of 2017.

The project includes partnerships with teachers and administrators from Qikiqtani School Operations, and the team’s long-term goal is to expand the project across the entire Nunavut region.

About the Arctic Inspiration Prize

Founded in 2012 by Arnold Witzig and Sima Sharifi, the Arctic Inspiration Prize recognizes and promotes the extraordinary contribution made by diverse teams in the gathering of Arctic knowledge, and their plans to implement this knowledge to real world applications for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic, Arctic Peoples, and therefore Canada as a whole. To date, 11 teams have been awarded prizes totaling $4.5 million.