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NZAS has prepared the following brief on Audiological Care in New Zealand in response to questions posed by Karoline Tuckey Kapiti Observer/Horowhenua Mail/Stuff.co.nz
Auckland, October 12, 2015

Click here for information on Audiological Care in New Zealand


Press Release: Audiological Society Ensures Hearing Aid Consumers Protected
Auckland, June 24, 2015

The NZAS is concerned about the recent media coverage which indicated that War Veterans and older New Zealanders may be at risk of purchasing hearing devices and services that are neither required nor suitable. The NZAS considers the conduct described in the media as unacceptable and asks that the people mentioned in the article contact them as soon as possible so that a formal enquiry can take place.

The public needs to be aware that in New Zealand there is no restriction on who may sell hearing aids.  Therefore some complaints are not about audiological services received from a member of the NZAS, but about a person who is not a member of the society. 

Click here for full press release > 

Audiologist apologises over failed hearing tests:
 Sunday Star Times 14 September 2014
 
An audiologist who failed to detect a boy's significant hearing loss despite testing him five times over 10 years is blaming a lack of support and access to peer reviewing for his failures.

Dunedin's Simon Tregonning has been revealed in a Human Rights Review Tribunal report as the former Otago Hospital audiologist who repeatedly failed to diagnose the boy's hearing loss, despite the continuing concerns of his parents, teachers and other health workers.

The report follows another last year by the Health and Disability Commissioner, which found that the then-unnamed audiologist did not provide testing and diagnostic services with reasonable care and skill to the boy, as well as to a six-year-old girl.

The lack of cross-checks performed by the audiologist was particularly troubling, deputy commissioner Theodora Baker said, as was his failure to arrange follow-up appointments for the two children.

However, she acknowledged he was working with "sub-optimal" equipment and facilities, had little collegial support, and was not receiving adequate supervision.

The Southern District Health Board was therefore vicariously liable for the breaches.

The Human Rights Review Tribunal also brought proceedings against Tregonning and the health board under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights, and both admitted the breaches.
The tribunal's report found that Tregonning was unable to become a full member of the New Zealand Audiological Society because he could not find the formal supervision needed to become a member.
Despite this, he was appointed sole charge audiologist at Otago Hospital. The health board later admitted it did not carry out performance reviews for Tregonning in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

A later peer review of his work found part of the problem was the rooms and equipment being used for testing, but a further issue was Tregonning's belief that his long experience meant that he could tell whether there was a response or not from a child without cross-checking other evidence.

The review found Tregonning had frequently identified auditory brain responses in what were essentially random noisy recordings. This was "very dangerous" as he was "drawing unwarranted conclusions from these recordings, usually from children who are not able to be co-operative in other ways".

The health board wrote to the parents of 1532 children who had been identified as being under five years old when they were tested by Tregonning between 2007 and 2010. Twenty-one of the 144 who responded did not want any follow-up as they had no concerns. One hundred and twenty-three parents requested that their child be retested. One child was found to have a significant hearing loss, and five children required further audiology testing for specific diagnoses.
 
Tregonning left the hospital in 2010 and is now a high school maths teacher.

He told the Sunday Star-Times yesterday he had apologised to the boy and his family in letters and regretted what had happened.

"But I can't do anything about it. I've moved on, I've got a different career, to me it's end of story."

He confirmed that the main problem was a lack of supervision and access to his peers because he was not a member of the society, and that he was working on his own for many years.

He had seen about 100,000 people over his 20-year career and it was inevitable that errors would occur.
"You're doing tests on [two and three-year-olds] who don't necessarily want to be there. It's like interpreting an ECG - it can be difficult - waveforms all over the place and you've got to ascertain, is there a peak there or is it due to random noise because the person's moving around?"

He understood the hospital now had new equipment and three audiologists instead of one. "At least people now are getting a better deal."

Richard Bunton, the health board's medical director of patient services, said that since June 2010 the health board had implemented significant improvements in audiology services.

A professional audiology adviser engaged in 2010 undertook a thorough review of audiology services, he said.

The review resulted in the implementation of several service improvement initiatives.

The tribunal report said that the family of the 12-year-old boy whose deafness was discovered only when another audiologist examined him had lodged an ACC treatment injury claim. His social and academic progress was severely disrupted because of the delayed diagnosis.

An ACC expert found that the diagnosis of the hearing loss should have been made in 2003, but ACC declined his claim on the basis that there was no physical injury.

- Sunday Star Times


New Zealand Audiological Society Response:


The New Zealand Audiological Society (NZAS) is deeply regretful of the 2010 case in which an audiology practitioner misdiagnosed children with hearing loss at Southern District Healthboard (SDHB). This person was referred to as an Audiologist but was not a member of the NZAS. 

To become a member of the NZAS, an Audiologist must have a Master of Audiology degree or equivalent. The NZAS regulates membership by ensuring applicants have the correct qualifications and clinical experience to provide excellence in hearing care. As part of this regulation an Audiologist must initially sit a clinical exam (Clinical Certificate of Competency) and complete continuing education to ensure they are current members. NZAS Audiologists abide by a strict code of ethics and extensive standards of practice. Regular peer reviews are performed as part of continuing the Clinical Certificate of Competency. As a direct result of the SDHB situation, the NZAS will be implementing specialised paediatric certification for those Audiologists who are working with children. 

NZAS Audiologists diagnose hearing problems and treating hearing loss by fitting hearing aids or listening devices. Some NZAS Audiologists also specialise in treating tinnitus and reduced sound tolerance. They work closely with other health professionals such as Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Specialists, GPs, Speech Language Therapists and Advisors on Deaf and Hearing Impaired children. NZAS Audiologists are the approved service providers for financial assistance through ACC, War Pensions, Government Subsidies and WINZ.

The NZAS urges members of the public to ask if their Audiologist is a member of the NZAS. We understand that in a hospital situation, the public may have no choice as to who they are seen by. However, we will publish, on the NZAS website all current practicing members of NZAS. The public can also look for the official NZAS logo used by current members and any current member will have MNZAS after their name. 




Link to INsite magazine article:  http://www.insitemagazine.co.nz/pages/section/article.php?s=Technology&idArticle=25046

Link to trademe article: http://www.trademe.co.nz/trust-safety/guide-to-buying-hearing-aid-devices/

 
New Born Hearing Screening - 21 December 2012 
The New Zealand Audiological Society (NZAS) is pleased that the NSU newborn hearing screening and early intervention programme has successfully identified a number of children with significant hearing loss who have received very early treatment and the best prospects for successfully acquiring speech and language. The NZAS is, however, concerned that the reported incidents may have caused some delay in identifying babies with hearing loss.  NZAS Audiologists suggest that all parents with concerns regarding their child's hearing seek to have an assessment by an Audiologist, irrespective of whether their child passed the NSU screening test.





Why you need an Audiologist

Wonderful news! You can buy a replacement hip joint on the internet for a mere US $300. However, without a team of trained experts to operate and replace the hip joint, (cost around $16,000) it’s just a weird-looking desk-top ornament. By itself, it’s not even worth $300.

Download NZAS Position Paper on Internet Hearing Aid Sales - October 2012

Download National Foundation for the Deaf Policy on Internet Hearing Aid Sales - November 2012

It’s the same with hearing aids. You can buy a set of hearing aids on the internet for under $500 according to Robert Reid. But without a skilled audiologist to fit them, customise them for your individual listening situations (hearing at work, going out socially, hearing music, hearing on the phone), adjust it for your preferred listening comfort (not to mention testing the hearing aids to ensure they are working as they should), they are useless, or worse, may end up damaging your hearing. 

Modern hearing aids are not just pieces of plastic and metal (with 16 million or so transistors per chip). They are miniature computers, constantly analysing the sounds around you, and adjusting themselves accordingly. When the sound environment changes (e.g. you go from the quiet of your home and out into a busy street), the hearing aids will adjust to suit this new environment. However, because different people go to different places and are exposed to different sound environments, audiologists often need to make adjustments for a particular individual’s listening environment for the best possible hearing.

This requires skill, training and experience adjust them correctly...over time.  Once hearing aids are fitted and sound is reintroduced to your hearing system, your brain changes the way it wires itself. This occurs over the first weeks and months in response to the new sound input. This is a different situation to glasses, which give instant results (if correctly prescribed).  This is one reason why hearing aids have a trial period, which can be anything from two to eight weeks, and hearing aids can be returned to the manufacturer if unsatisfactory (or if you change your mind). 

In the old days, hearing aids were, essentially, basic amplifiers.  They made everything louder. This would mean that whilst you might hear some conversations better, loud sounds like a slamming door would be painfully loud and quiet sounds might not be heard at all. New technology allows sound to be processed in a way that is easier for the brain to interpret and more like the way the ear and brain naturally process sound.  Large amounts of funding goes into the research and development of new technology each year to improve on the current hearing aid technology. Cheaper aids often do not take advantage of the latest technological advances. An Audiologist is the best hearing care professional to advise on the new technology and how it might benefit you.

Hearing loss is similar to other health issues and needs to be checked out properly. Hearing loss may be a result of an underlying ear condition rather than just an age-related hearing loss.  Audiologists are trained to find ear pathology and refer to an appropriate specialist when necessary.

 

New Zealand Audiological Society Audiologists are the most qualified hearing aid fitters. Each of them has undergone at least five years of University education, and another year of clinical supervision with exams. They undergo regular peer review, and must continue to stay up-to-date with the latest Audiology research and hearing aid technology to maintain membership of the Society. Currently, only NZAS audiologists may access Government subsidies for hearing aids (currently $511.11 per ear not more than once every 6 years) and other funding, such as ACC and War Pensions. 

 

For all media enquiries please contact the NZAS Executive Officer via
email executiveofficer@audiology.org.nz or phone/fax 0800 625 166.

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