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    Sarah Fredj: I See Hearing Loss Awareness As a Natural Extension of My Professional Mission

    (Photo: Sarah Fredj)

    With an estimated 466 million people worldwide living with disabling hearing loss, as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO), the demand for audiology experts has never been more urgent. Sarah Fredj, a Certified Audiologist who devoted five years to science and now has her professional master’s degree in Audiology, a member of the Order of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists of Quebec, a real professional, seeing nine patients every day, will discuss the advantages of having an Educational Audiologist present in schools and share the way she chose to improve the lives of people facing the problem of hearing loss.

    Be well educated to educate well

    Sarah strongly believes that a professional audiologist is required at school. Statistics report that about 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. Understanding this, she did her best to get a good education in this field. She completed her studies at the University of Montreal in 2014, earning both a bachelor’s degree and a professional master’s degree in audiology. During these years, she completed courses in theoretical and practical audiology principles, hearing anatomy and physiology, hearing testing, hearing aid technologies, hearing rehabilitation, and related topics such as psychology and communication. Her passion lies in understanding how hearing loss impacts an individual’s ability to hear sounds accurately, affecting their speech abilities. This drove her to focus her master’s research on otitis media and its impact on language development. Sarah firmly believes that addressing hearing-related challenges necessitates a personalized approach. For the past decade, she has honed her skills in audiology, predominantly in a private practice setting. She performed comprehensive hearing assessments and specialized tests such as auditory evoked potentials and speech-in-noise discrimination tests. She developed rehabilitation programs specific for each patient, focusing on improving communication and quality of life.

    Sarah, drawing on her extensive experience, emphasizes that children facing challenges with hearing and listening may struggle to reach their full academic potential due to difficulties in understanding instructions or course materials. Hearing loss can manifest from infancy to school age, and an undiagnosed hearing impairment can significantly impact a child’s educational progress. Highlighting the potential consequences of untreated hearing loss, Sarah underscores the scenario where a student is constantly exposed to a noisy school environment, diligently striving to meet academic and familial expectations. Despite receiving support from adults, the student struggles to perform at their optimal level and experiences fatigue compared to peers by the day’s end. Sarah underscores the daily presence of such students in classrooms, emphasizing the critical need to recognize and address auditory challenges to facilitate their academic success and overall well-being.

    Build for everyone’s good

    Sarah observed a significant gap in awareness and resources related to hearing and listening difficulties within school environments during her professional work and research endeavors in the United States. Motivated by this discovery, she embarked on a mission to address this deficiency by initiating an awareness project that operates on multiple levels:

    (Level 1) Indirect Interventions:

    She aims to create impactful resources, such as a comprehensive website dedicated to hearing loss, and develop documentation and training courses to enhance awareness and provide guidance for individuals seeking assistance.

    (Level 2) Direct Interventions with Adults:

    Sarah recognizes the importance of engaging with adults within the educational system, including teachers, school administrators, and other professionals. Through case discussions and tailored interventions, she seeks to empower these stakeholders with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively support students facing hearing challenges.

    (Level 3) Direct Interventions with Students:

    Another critical aspect of Sarah’s project involves direct engagement with students experiencing hearing or listening difficulties. By actively observing students in their learning environments and conducting hearing assessments, she aims to identify and address potential issues early on, ensuring that students receive the support they need to succeed academically.

    By implementing these multi-faceted interventions at various levels, Sarah envisions creating a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all individuals, ultimately striving to build a system that benefits everyone involved.

    Why so important?

    Sarah finds it crucial that children with hearing difficulties receive the necessary support to actively engage in class, comprehend learning materials, and effectively communicate with their peers and teachers. This can lead to improved academic performance and a decreased likelihood of dropping out of school. By addressing the issue of school dropout rates and aiding children with hearing challenges to achieve success in their education, school audiologists contribute to cultivating a more proficient and efficient workforce for the future. Sarah emphasizes that this can positively impact the economy by boosting the number of high school graduates and equipping them with the skills needed to excel in the job market. She is pleased to be involved in this valuable process.

    Sarah affirms that early intervention and continuous support delivered by school audiologists play a pivotal role in lowering school dropout rates, enhancing the academic achievements of children grappling with hearing impairments, and fostering a positive long-term influence on the U.S. economy.

    Sarah, as the school audiologist, plays a vital role in advocating for the inclusion of children with hearing impairments within the school setting. She provides support to teachers by:

    – Performing detailed hearing assessments tailored to the educational setting and offering recommendations to enhance communication access and educational achievements;

    – Providing education and training on hearing, hearing loss, and associated auditory concerns to school personnel, students, and parents. This effort aims to foster a deeper comprehension of how auditory disabilities can affect language abilities, academic advancement, literacy, and social growth;

    – Ensuring that hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive hearing devices are properly adjusted and functioning correctly to facilitate effective access to auditory information;

    – Delivering detailed explanations of the audiological evaluation results to school staff, enhancing their understanding and aiding in informed decision-making processes;

    – Working with schools, parents, teachers, support staff, community organizations, and professionals to ensure that the necessary services are provided to meet the needs of individuals with hearing impairments. This collaborative approach helps create a supportive environment that fosters these individuals’ academic and social success.

     Passion Requires Patience

    It’s unfortunate to admit that some schools might hesitate to dedicate time or resources to outreach projects that are not directly tied to the standard school curricula. Sarah acknowledges that persuading administrators and decision-makers about the significance of hearing health awareness can pose a challenge. Her experience allowed her to develop the project, including certain levels of interventions, including indirect interventions, for example, by developing resources, documentation, and training courses to consult and direct interventions with adults and students.

    Driven by her passion for her work, she strives to broaden her services. By engaging in various training programs annually, she consistently enhances her knowledge for the betterment of her patients and eagerly imparts her expertise to her colleagues. She has authored several articles on hearing loss, including The Link between Parkinson’s Disease and Hearing Loss and The Effects of mild bilateral hearing loss in School-aged Children.

    Sarah emphasizes that her main responsibility is to advocate for hearing health using a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. As a healthcare professional, she strongly commits to children’s and the community’s well-being.

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